|Volume 52 Number 6, March 26, 2022||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Causes and Context of the Conflict in Ukraine
Oppose US/NATO Expansion and Provocations against Russia
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
Causes and Context of the Conflict in Ukraine:
Oppose US/NATO Expansion and Provocations against Russia
Fight for An Anti-War Government:
Need to Speak Out in the Face of Our Own Pro-War Government
Necessity to Bring about an Anti-War Government
US Pentagon's biological research facilities:
US/NATO Spins Disinformation on Use of Chemical Weapons
US biological research experiments on humans:
Some History of US Biolabs
Fight for An Anti-War Government:
New World Order Must Be of the Peoples' Making
NATO's biennial military exercise "Cold Response":
NATO Continues to Increase the Militarisation of Europe
NATO War Preparations against Russia:
Ramped Up Troop Deployments to Eastern Europe and Further Militarisation of Ukraine
From the Baltic to the Black Sea:
NATO Expands Troop Presence in Eastern and Southeastern Europe
For Your Information:
NATO's military spending exceeds Russian Army budget by 20 times, says security chief
Strikes at Goldsmiths Oppose Fire-and-Rehire Restructuring and Job Losses
Safeguarding the Future of Higher Education:
University Staff Continue their Struggle
SOS-NHS National Day of Action:
Stop Paying the Rich! For Emergency Funding for the NHS!
Final Report of the People's Covid Inquiry Released:
Misconduct in Public Office - Why did so many thousands die unnecessarily?
The people of the world desire peace, not war. But to further this objective, it is necessary to speak out against the US/NATO expansion eastwards, which Russia has for many years been warning against, and the use of Ukraine as a base to attempt to encircle, isolate and ultimately crush Russia. Russia's military operations in Ukraine must be seen in this context.
The sanctions imposed on Russia, including Russian oligarchs, not to speak of the persecution of cultural, sports and other figures who have refused to humiliate themselves and bow to the dictate coming from the US and NATO, will not, and are not intended to, sort out the problems stemming from the end of the bi-polar division of the world, 1989-1991. It can be seen also that the "international community" excludes many countries, including Venezuela, Cuba, South Africa, China and the DPRK, who are also refusing to give voice to the same outlook as the US, Britain and NATO.
The US is pushing forward its dictate over the whole of Europe, arming NATO to the teeth, while accusing Russia of aggression and invasion. Britain for its part is silent about the nature of NATO, presenting it as a defensive organisation, and all parties in Westminster are complicit in this. They are silent too about the slogans of the neo-Nazi forces in Ukraine which have been mobilised to carry out terrorist attacks against the population in eastern Ukraine. Rather they have been promoting the historical Nazi slogans of "Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!"
There would not be this conflict in the Ukraine today had the US not expanded NATO at all, had it agreed to keep Ukraine out of NATO and not used it to permit neo-Nazi gangs to attack the population of eastern Ukraine and threaten Russia's borders. It should have dismantled NATO after the Warsaw Pact was officially disbanded in March and July of 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Instead, the US expanded NATO and is engaging in brinkmanship, pushing to see how far it can go in the hopes it can prevail to crush Russia and then deal with China from a position of strength.
This could never be the road to peace. The working class and people here in Britain must oppose US/NATO expansion and the provocations against Russia, seek truth from facts, as many people are in fact doing and coming to warranted conclusion, and settle scores with our own pro-war government, fighting to establish in Britain an Anti-War Government.
Everywhere NATO and the US and Britain go they cause wars, death and destruction. Witness Yugoslavia, Libya and the Middle East. Now they have further turned their attention to warmongering in Eastern Europe. It is not just the anti-war protesters as has been said in Russia but the peoples of Russia and Ukraine do not want war. We do not need to remind ourselves that they lost millions of people fighting Nazi Germany and made so many sacrifices. So neither will they accept US, British or German troops who are aligned with neo-Nazi forces to occupy their lands and dictate to them.
Secondly, given the danger of all-out European war, it is urgent that the British people do not accept any limitations on their freedom of speech. The need is to be able to argue out what is what, and what stand favours our interests and the interests of the peoples of the world for peace. The people need to be able to get the facts. The all out hysterical Russophobia and disinformation is unprecedented and is aimed at trying to block the people having their own outlook to end these wars.
Particularly, no-one is supposed to raise what is the intervention of the US and NATO in Ukraine over the last years, their so-called "colour revolutions", nor the consequences of the February 2014 Maidan coup sponsored by NATO and the EU, the NATO backed eight-year civil war. Nor how the US and Britain has supported the Ukrainian regime in ignoring the the Minsk agreements and UN resolutions and encouraging them to use force.
During the pandemic we saw the build of Britain's role in war preparations, exercises and threats to Russia in Eastern Europe and in the Black Sea. In Ukraine itself they are helping to integrate neo-Nazis into the Ukrainian army and training them on how to defeat fellow Ukrainians in Donetsk and Lugansk. These things need to be pointed out and discussed.
There is a need to oppose the hysteria and the need to act in a calm way to discuss the situation. The working class and people need to concentrate on their own vantage point and develop the movements of the people against war in the complicated situation they are in. This is the profound desire of so many in the anti-war movement. There is a need to speak out and oppose the oppressive propaganda of our own pro-war government.
Speech by Roger Nettleship, Chair of Newcastle Stop the War, at a rally at the Monument, Newcastle, March 12, 2022
I think the first fact that we need to look at is that everywhere the US and Britain as well as NATO go they cause division, wars, death and destruction as well as proxy wars. You only have to look at their history in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America. That is the record of fact.
Since the US/NATO's latest defeat in the 20-year war in Afghanistan, which led to more than 100,000 of deaths and bombed Afghanistan into the stone-age, they have now turned their attention to continuing the militarising of Eastern Europe and the East Asia Pacific claiming the main enemy is Russia and China. This is fact.
Have lessons been learnt by the US and Britain, or the NATO military block by their defeat in Afghanistan? No they are seeking even bigger wars with their warmongering brinkmanship. This is not going to solve the problems in the world, or make the people of our countries more safe and secure, or bring about peace.
The US and NATO's involvement in Ukraine, especially since the 2014 Maidan coup, started a civil war in Ukraine in which thousands men women and children have died. NATO's interference and arming of Ukraine and egging it on against their own Russian speaking people in Ukraine, egging it on to become a new NATO member has finally provoked Russia into taking military action. Russia say for their security concerns for themselves and the Russian speaking people in Ukraine which have been ignored.
So what is our government doing? What is the US doing? Are they finally trying to bring about peace in Ukraine? On the contrary, they are doing the opposite! They are using the crisis of Russia's invasion to economically cripple Russia's economy in their interests, isolate it and embroil it in an escalating war. They are sending arms and not calling for peace. They are going all out to encourage an insurgency in Ukraine that, Hilary Clinton hopes will last 10 years, destroying Ukraine and Russia. Just as she called for the destruction of Libya.
It will not happen! The people of Russia and Ukraine will find a way to end this war.
We have hope. Not just because there are anti-war protesters in Russia as well as us here fighting for an anti-war government. But we see hope because the majority of the peoples of Russia and Ukraine do not want war, even those that are fighting. Let's remind ourselves that the people of Russian and Ukraine fought together and lost millions of people fighting Nazi Germany and making so many sacrifices to defeat the attempt of the Nazis destroy Ukraine and Russia, formerly the Soviet Union. Why should they now accept NATO with its warmongering agenda against Russia and China arming neo-Nazi forces and integrating them into the army and state as they are doing?
Do the US and British governments really care about Ukrainians? Do they care about peace? They are fuelling the war by sending weapons to Ukraine. They are both also continuing racist and anti-immigration policies against refugees from Ukraine. They are bullying Poland and other European countries to take on this burden of refugees from Ukraine. They are also allowing the inhuman treatment of Russian people abroad with their Russophobia and that of their media. It beggars belief that there is no law, or process in seizing the bank accounts of anyone they want to as long as they are Russian.
During the pandemic few people knew that our government was party to the US and NATO build up of war preparations in Eastern Europe, exercises with huge military forces creating forward military bases in Eastern Europe in, Poland, Norway, Estonia and in the Black Sea where their warships caused provocations against Russia. Last year, we had online meetings of Newcastle Stop the War on these huge continuous military exercises of NATO during the pandemic all aimed against Russia and China.
This is our vantage point in Britain. There is a whole history of the anti-war movement opposing Britain's warmongering role in NATO alongside the US. We have made and can still make a difference and strike a blow against their wars by reminding ourselves that the main enemy for war is at home and not in Russia. Stop the War must help people see through the lies and disinformation on the role of the US, Britain and NATO in provoking this war in Ukraine by its weaponisation of Ukraine against Russia, a weaponisation that goes against the peace and security of all the Ukrainian people and is not in their interests.
The necessity in Britain is to bring about an anti-war government and an end Britain's warmongering. This is the decisive move we can make against NATO and war in the world.
US President Joe Biden on March 24 put forward that NATO would respond "in kind" if Russian President Vladimir Putin uses chemical weapons in Ukraine. The US President said that such an attack "would trigger a response in kind".
Speaking at a press conference after a summit of NATO leaders in Brussels, Biden said, "We would respond. We would respond if he uses it. The nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use." He added that NATO "has never, never been more united", saying, "Putin is getting exactly the opposite of [what] he intended to have as a consequence of going into Ukraine."
Suggestions have been made that such a use by Russia of chemical weapons would be carried out under a "false flag", that is, under the cover of it being an attack by Ukraine. This appears to be in the nature of a double bluff by the US and NATO to prepare the ground for Ukraine's deployment of such weapons. Biden's use of "we" is significant. Propaganda has been ramped up that Russia is prepared to use chemical and biological weapons, while it has been established that the US has been responsible for "Bio Labs" in Ukraine.
China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian, at a Press Conference on March 8, raised an important question in this connection. Given all the US denials about biological weapons, why is it refusing to have verification of the safety of existing labs, in Ukraine, the US and elsewhere, he asked. "Under current circumstances, for the sake of the health and safety of people in Ukraine, neighbouring regions and beyond, we call on relevant sides to ensure the safety of these labs. The US, in particular, as the party that knows the labs the best, should disclose specific information as soon as possible, including which viruses are stored and what research has been conducted."
If the use of chemical weapons is so heinous, why is Biden promising to approve their use? This is another attempt to deflect public opinion and paint Russia and Putin as evil, while covering over the crimes and aggression of the US and NATO. Among the 183 signatories to the Biological Weapons Convention, the US is the only one that pulled out of negotiations for a verification mechanism in 2001 and refuses to submit to verification in the name of its "defence" and "national security" interests. The US and Pentagon had said that the war against Afghanistan was for defensive purposes, just as it claims its bombs and nuclear bombers are "peacemakers". Thus the use of the term "biodefence" does not carry much weight.
The fact is that napalm and Agent Orange used by the US in Vietnam were biological weapons, depleted uranium weaponry that the US deployed in Iraq and elsewhere was a chemical weapon. Agent Orange was not only used, it was dangerously kept stored for long periods in Okinawa, Japan, and in Gulfport, Mississippi until 1977, as well as on many other military bases. The military keeps secret what other pathogens and biological agents may be stored at its hundreds of bases in the US and abroad.
There are quite a few examples which testify as to the existence of "biological research facilities" in Ukraine funded by the US, including the Pentagon's Biological Threat Reduction Programme.
Concern about US biological research labs and the failure to publicly provide information on their research and the safe storage of the dangerous pathogens used, has long existed. A hearing was held in 2007 by the US House of Representatives on "Germs, Viruses, and Secrets: The Silent Proliferation of Bio-Laboratories in the United States". A report from the Energy and Commerce Committee says the hearing focused on the risk associated with Bio Safety Level - 3 (BSL-3) and BSL-4 labs where "research is conducted on highly infectious viruses and bacteria that can cause injury or death", like anthrax and Ebola. "The accidental or deliberate release of some of the biological agents handled at these labs could have catastrophic consequences," the report says.
According to the report, "No one in the Federal Government even knows for sure how many of these labs there are in the United States, much less what research they are doing or whether they are safe and secure." It speaks to the proliferation of the labs at that time, the $1 billion in funds from the National Institute of Health (NIH), and asks, "When it comes to BSL-4 labs, which are the labs that deal with the most serious diseases for which there is no cure, should we significantly limit the number of labs so there are fewer chances for an accidental or intentional release of these most dangerous substances? Has the proliferation of these labs reached the point at which there are so many labs doing this research that you actually increase the chances of catastrophic release of a deadly disease?"
That was in 2007, related only to the US. Hundreds of additional labs are suspected worldwide. As well, NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), speaks to military-related research on bioterrorism. "For more than 50 years, NIAID has led the nation's medical research effort to understand, treat, and prevent the myriad infectious diseases that threaten hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The NIAID portion of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget - received each year from Congress - supports medical research conducted on the NIH campus in Maryland, at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana, and at universities and research centres, primarily nationwide but also overseas...Because NIAID has broad experience, expertise, and success in developing medical tools to fight infectious diseases, it now also plays a leading role in the nation's fight against bioterrorism. The Institute has greatly expanded its research programmes..."
This includes construction, completed in 2020, of four new national facilities, which all include BSL-4 laboratories. These are located at the Army's Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland; at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana; and two National Biocontainment Laboratories (NBLs), located at Boston University and at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. All of it reflects the integration of the military, public universities and public health institutes in these efforts, the results of which are often kept secret.
The Army's Fort Detrick has long been known as a place for brutal biological experimentation on humans, including prisoners and hospital patients, conducted together at times with the CIA. Various biological agents and torture were used for decades. In 1943, during WWII, it housed the "Army Biological Warfare Laboratories." Calling it now a national "Biocontainment" facility has done little to eliminate its well-deserved reputation as a research centre for biological warfare. As protesters back in the 1960's put it, "No rationalisation of 'defence' can justify the evil of mass destruction and disease," carried out then and now.
This history and current efforts, including launching a research agency modelled on the military's Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, indicate how extensive and established US biological research and warfare is. It also shows the degree to which the military, public universities and public health agencies are funded and directed toward bioterrorism and similar military related issues. The levels of US deaths regarding COVID are certainly one indication of why people want to know how research is geared to providing for the health and safety of the public.
(TML Daily, March 25, 2022)
Based on an interview with Pauline Easton in TML
Unfortunately the US and NATO seem to have adopted all the anti-war movement's positions, including opposing the use of force to settle conflicts. They will nonetheless reveal what they stand for.
In the 1989-91 period, the US and big powers of old Europe, along with Canada and some of the countries in eastern Europe which the US took under its wing, were euphoric. Democracy had triumphed, they declared. They decreed that European values had to be espoused by all countries in the world. Hardial Bains wrote an essay at that time titled Era. He wrote:
"... the slogans put forward by the various forces did not quite match their character. The right wing called for democracy, its sworn enemy. The working people called for the rule of the new forces, which could only go against their own interests. Soon the real character of all the forces will reveal itself. While it is true that no force can act in the old way, it is also true that no force can hide its true character. Words will once again assume their true meanings and the real quality of things and events will emerge." (April 25, 1991)
What he wrote then is indeed a feature of this new phase of this defining historical moment as well. The real character of all the forces will reveal itself. Words will once again assume their true meanings and the real quality of things and events will emerge. In the 1989-91 period, the euphoria of the US and its allies claiming democracy had triumphed was soon exposed as the rich got richer, the poor poorer under the weight of the neo-liberal anti-social offensive. Wars of destruction were unleashed by the US which declared itself the sole superpower. So too today, the US ruling circles and those of their allies are euphoric, drunk with the belief that the whole world stands with them. The pressure to conciliate with what they are doing is enormous. Doing so, however, will not bring about peace, not even in the short term to stave off a greater war.
We sympathise with those who are against the suffering of civilians in all wars but when the issue is to turn things around in favour of the peoples, this is not enough. Not a few, even within the official circles, trade union movement and even anti-war circles, among others, are learning through the experience of finding themselves inadvertently supporting the US/NATO warmongering agenda that they have to take responsibility for what they are supporting. All of us have this task whether we like it or not. It is the call of history, not a matter of anyone's beliefs, right or wrong.
The official circles are fomenting hysteria and giving the World War Two Nazi collaborators' salute Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes! and even apologising for it by saying it does not have a neo-Nazi meaning today. The racists and white supremacists in the US and Europe are euphoric. They seem to think that they have won the war to crush Russia and back the US aim to impose its dictate over Europe and dominate the world. At their own peril they forget that in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and within the heartlands of imperialism itself - in the US, Europe and in Canada and in Oceania - the peoples are striving for a freedom, democracy and peace which favour them. This is the preponderance of the world's peoples. They are the ones who are favoured by making sure governing authorities are on par with the conditions. They are laying their claims on society to bring in governing institutions which accord with the conditions, institutions which will favour the peopl e and affirm their right to be. The people are fighting those who are striving for world domination at their expense.
In November 1990, 34 countries got together in Paris at the Summit of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) to sign the Charter of Paris for a New Europe (Paris Charter). (In December 1994 the CSCE became the Organisation for Security and C-operation in Europe, OSCE). The Paris Charter basically declared that adherence to US definitions of a free-market economy, multi-party elections and human rights is the precondition to establish relations between countries. They described this as the "new world order". It enshrined acceptance of European "values" as the touchstone to judge whether a country is friend or foe. Recently declassified documents from the Clinton Presidential Library confirm that arguments began then within official circles to "update and realign the entire architecture of relations between the United States and Europe." One researcher points out: "Russia-firsters were concerned that NATO enlargement would aggravate Russian insecurities; Russia sceptics supported enlargement because they believed NATO needed to capitalize on Russia's temporary weakness."
The declassified documents show that the emergence of the US initiated Partnership for Peace (PfP) for NATO in 1994 "was a compromise between both camps". The PfP initiated the expansion of NATO to include members of the former Warsaw Pact which had been disbanded when the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991.
In other words, the plan to target Russia was not hidden and it has been pursued ever since.
In 1995 President Clinton visited Kyiv to celebrate Ukraine's declaration that it had adopted a market economy and given up its nuclear weapons.
Through the PfP, countries were permitted to join NATO once they showed they had established conditions which adhered to the Paris Charter and they had indebted their countries sufficiently to pay for their military contributions to NATO. This meant they had compromised their sovereignty by submitting to the US and subordinated their economies to financial institutions under US control. Since then, the all-sided crisis with economic crisis at the base has deepened both in the US and on the world scale. The trend of the rich becoming richer and the poor poorer is rapidly revealing unsustainable results for the impoverished and for the structures of the so-called democratic institutions based on inequality, racism and police powers. The oligopolies which represent supranational interests, which operate through cartels and coalitions, have taken over the decision-making powers in various countries. The more they fight over control of the executive power in the United States, the more the US has launched wars of aggression and occupation abroad in repeatedly failed atte mpts to unify its military and civil bureaucracies at home and prevail against its rivals abroad, including those within Europe as well.
This problem is getting worse for the US, not better, no matter how many countries are forced to submit to its striving for domination. In the one short year since Biden came to power, his administration has already suffered three foreign policy failures, the first its humiliation in Afghanistan, the second, its failure to impose regime change in Cuba in July 2021 and now the third, its failure to force Russia to submit to the US threat of use of force, backed up by deployment of its own troops and weapons as well as those of other NATO countries. And this does not even take into account the assault on the Capitol on January 6 which was certainly an exposure of the inability of elections and the so-called democratic institutions to ensure a peaceful transition of power.
The current war in Ukraine arises because Russia could no longer afford to tolerate the US attempt to isolate, encircle, humiliate and crush it using Ukraine as a forward base since 2014. No country can tolerate having its security threatened every day. How can economic and commercial relations, diplomatic relations, cultural relations and relations in all spheres of life be expected to be conducted peacefully when such things take place?
When all of this is the case, it is not helpful to put what Russia is doing and what the US is doing on par. One of the main causes of the anarchy and violence worldwide is the US striving for world domination. It has about 750 military bases abroad, uses NATO to force countries to submit to its will, mobilizes the dregs of World War II fascist forces, along with private contractors who hire these dregs along with highly paid mercenaries, and carries out wanton wars of destruction against countries of Asia and Africa, as well as Yugoslavia and in Latin America and the Caribbean. The imposition of the US "new world order", in the existing conditions of disequilibrium, is increasing anarchy and violence and giving rise to yet more dangers. The "war on terror" and all the crimes committed in its name is but one example. As well, the tremendous human productive powers that have emerged worldwide are outside the control of the narrow private supranational interests as well as the US. Th at which they cannot control the US acts to destroy, engendering yet more violence and wars of destruction. What is needed is control of the productive powers by the peoples in a manner that serves the human and natural environment.
Without addressing these problems, nothing either Russia or the US do will bring about the peace, freedom and democracy the peoples aspire to. What is needed is a new world order of the peoples' own making. Nonetheless, in the current context, the arguments given by Cuba, Syria and others, including China, Vietnam, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mexico and Venezuela are consistent with what the conditions are calling for.
The anarchy and violence are so extensive, nothing is predictable. On the basis of what standards can things be measured when the narrow private interests do whatever they like? The existing institutions of liberal democracy have been undermined to such an extent, there is no rule of law, just police powers concentrated in the hand of executives. The US intelligence agencies and those of its "five eyes" allies, as well as others, can no longer predict the outcome of elections, let alone the military adventures and brinkmanship. These failures include the intense rivalries in the US Today talk about civil war is not if but when. There is broad disinformation to keep the public off-balance. Legislation grants the use of police powers in the name of "war on terror", opposition to "hate propaganda," and the "dangers posed to national security" and the like.
The "war on terror" and emergency legislation was and continues to be a component part of the "new world order". Every day exceptional circumstances are declared which require permanent emergency and war powers in the hands of the executives of countries, states and private institutions. The violations of the constitution and rule of law have given rise to much opposition.
The US hegemon and its NATO allies have concocted what they call the "rules-based international order" where they make the rules as they go along. The result is more anarchy and violence which suits the oligopolies, which can intervene with impunity, playing all ends against the middle in order to sweep up the spoils. But it also means that intelligence agencies, as well as polling firms and think tanks, can no longer predict outcomes. Meanwhile, the "rules-based international order" is for purposes of testing the capacity of rivals to resist and using the threat of force to get them to submit. It is also for purposes of testing the waters to see how the people will respond to US demands, how far the US can divert and divide their movements for the affirmation of their rights.
The main feature of the "new world order" imposed by the US and the big powers of Old Europe is that the Russian Federation, China and all countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe as well must submit to the US and declare that the US now rules supreme. Everyone, especially China and the Russian Federation, must prostrate themselves before the US.
From this content of "indispensable nation", with all others considered dispensable, flows all the crimes in the name of high ideals and the racist promotion of the alleged superiority of US and European values.
The sanctions against Russia and others have the aim of ensuring one economic system prevails, dominated by one World Bank, one International Monetary Fund, one World Trade Organisation - all under US control. The precondition for this "new world order" is that everyone must submit to these institutions. The irony is that after years of applying financial, commercial and economic sanctions and not achieving their aim, their strengthening of the same at this time is not likely to do so either.
On the contrary, it may well lead to the creation of functional alternative systems independent of the US dollar. It could well lead to the humiliation of the US, not Russia, China and all the other countries who are seeking to trade on the basis of rules which apply equally to all, not ones set and monitored by one-sided self-serving US interests.
The US/NATO warmongering to justify the encirclement of Russia in the hopes that it will buckle under and submit to US dictate has nothing to do with helping the people of Ukraine in any way, shape or form; nor with the collective defence of Europe; nor any principle of any kind. Every action carried out by the US and NATO since they proclaimed their "new world order" violates the right to be of all the nations which comprise Europe, not just the biggest of all, Russia itself.
Far from being a force which upholds human rights, peace and democracy, the US has resuscitated the descendants of Nazi collaborators which, in the Nazi tradition, it calls "freedom fighters", and engages them in systematic counter-revolutionary activities - in Ukraine, the US and elsewhere, especially all over Asia, Africa and Latin America - where they incite insurrections for purposes of fishing in waters they themselves trouble.
It is because of their "new world order" that, on the world scale, the consciousness among the peoples is deepening, not only about the economic problems that they face - every kind of deprivation, every kind of insecurity - but in terms of genocide and discrimination against various peoples deemed to be inferior and classes of people whose oppression and enslavement the rulers justify. There is also the intensification of exploitation on the basis of domination of one country by another, in addition to the problems of the environment, quality of life and so forth. This consciousness is developing everywhere. Nowhere have the peoples given up the struggle for their rights.
This too is a feature of the US imperialist "new world order". The peoples are fighting; they are increasingly basing themselves on their own thought-material and seeking the vantage point which goes to their advantage, not that of the imperialists and all reaction. The peoples are resisting; they are honing their skills in organising so that they establish modern arrangements and institutions which serve them. Within this, the champions of the US "new world order" do everything within their power to make sure the peoples do not establish their own perspective which permits them to activate their own human agency so as to intervene in the situation in a manner which favours them.
Today, even as the conflict escalated, while the US and other NATO warmongers condemned the military actions of the Russian Federation in Ukraine, US armed drones bombed Somalia and launched a missile attack against Syria. Where was the condemnation? Why are the lives of some in Europe worth more than those of the entire rest of the world? The US resolutions put forward in the UN only demand that Russian troops get out of Ukraine, ignoring the fact that Russia's demands for its security to be provided with a guarantee are not on par with the hegemonic aim US troops are fighting for all over the world.
Official adoption of neo-Nazi banners and slogans which they claim support the Ukrainian people go hand in hand with virulent US and Eurocentric chauvinism and outright racism, seen in their statements and abandonment and mistreatment of Black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean in Ukraine, in Europe and the United States itself. Meanwhile, the Biden administration's 200th illegal deportation flight sent 129 Haitians to Port-au-Prince, who are among the more than 2 million people deported since Biden took office.
Supporting the anti-Russian Ukrainian regime in which neo-Nazis have been financed, armed, trained and unleashed to lead the killing spree against Russian-speaking Ukrainians, who are one-third of the population, will not bring peace. The US is trying to turn world public opinion in its favour by calling Russia an aggressor which is not a proper use of the definition of what constitutes aggression coming out of the Nuremberg Trials which were held after World War II. It is important to not permit the United States and its NATO and other allies to declare themselves champions of peace, freedom and democracy.
The New World Order must be of the peoples' own making. This is the call of history.
NATO's biennial military exercise "Cold Response" started in Norway March 14 and is scheduled to end on April 1. According to reports 30,000 NATO troops "including the US, UK, Germany and France will help practise the defence of Norway from air, sea, and land". Lieutenant Colonel Ivar Moen, spokesperson for the Norwegian Joint Headquarters, told Deutsche Welle that the military exercise "is in line with Article 5 of NATO's Charter, which requires allies to rescue one another if attacked". It was originally to have 35,000 troops but Australia withdrew. NATO claims it will still be "among the military alliance's biggest since the cold war" and the reports claim it will be distanced from the Russian border and that Russia was invited to send observers but declined. As a part of "Cold Response", Norway is required under the agreements called the Vienna Document to invite all 57 member states of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), including Russia, t o observe the exercise. The Russian Embassy in Norway told French news agency AFP last week that "any buildup of NATO military capabilities near Russia's borders does not not help to strengthen security in the region".
Reports also say  that besides "900 British Royal marines", many of whom have been stationed there over the winter. Britain is also sending "50 vessels and 200 aircraft" with the HMS Prince of Wales, one of two of Britain's aircraft carriers, "at the centre of one of the world's most powerful naval task forces". HMS Prince of Wales will be "joined by frigate HMS Richmond, Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker and a nuclear-powered attack submarine escorting her".
Last March, NATO's military exercises Sea Shield-21 and Operation Sea Breeze 21 in the Black Sea in July had no other aim than to stir up tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Workers' Weekly predicted at the time  that "what made Sea Breeze 21 exercise of particular note to everyone is its dangerous warmongering scale and NATO's focus, specifically identifying it as war preparations against what they claim is Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea and denounces its temporary occupation". In other words, "these NATO exercises, including of sending HMS Defender as a provocation into Crimean waters, had clearly been aimed at actions focused on reversing by force of arms a decision of the people of Crimea and Sevastopol to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation in 2014."
Not only did the Anglo-US and NATO forces dangerously heighten tensions and risks of war in the Black Sea, but they encouraged militarism in Ukraine. As one analyst put it at the time, "NATO's rearming of Ukraine under Sea Breeze 2021 guise is for future conflict in Donbass." Ukraine's plan to refuse to recognise the rights of all its citizens, alongside Ukrainians, including national rights of Russian speaking people, has been primed by NATO's involvement to arm them and train them to continue to commit atrocities against Donetsk and Lugansk. It is this situation that has provoked the present military action of Russia to, as they say, "demilitarise and de-nazify" Ukraine.
Instead of the US, Britain and NATO now going all out to try and finally bring about a peaceful solution in Ukraine they are going all out to arm Ukraine and encourage an insurgency and at the same time are carrying out "one of Nato's biggest military exercises since the end of the cold war" in a country that borders Russia in the north. How can these be solutions to the rising tensions in Europe that NATO has brought about by their military expansion to the east up to Russia's borders? It is another attempt to continue the increased militarisation of Europe to even more dangerous levels and threaten the peace.
What further conflicts, as has happened with NATO's military arming of Ukraine, will it give rise to? NATO has never worked to preserve peace and security for the peoples of Europe, but rather to establish political and military structures under the US leadership which would not permit empowerment for even member NATO countries, let alone the people of those countries. Its participation in at least three US wars of aggression against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya, its military involvement in provoking Russia in Ukraine, provide whatever proof is required to show that it is not a force for peace or security.
Britain Out of NATO! Dismantle NATO!
Let Us Speak Out for the Necessity of an Anti-War Government!
2. Worker' Weekly July 17, 2021 US, Britain, NATO - Get Out of the Black Sea!
The ramped up troop deployments to eastern Europe and further militarisation of Ukraine is not aimed at bringing about a peaceful solution for Ukraine. Many years before Russia took military action in Ukraine, the 30 NATO member countries were moving troops into Eastern Europe up to Russia's borders under the guise of "containing Russia". Britain itself currently has more than 900 British military personnel in Estonia, more than 100 troops in Ukraine and approximately 150 soldiers in Poland. More troops are being deployed including 400 British marines to Poland.
It was reported that, speaking ahead of the extraordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government NATO summit on Thursday March 24, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that  Britain would provide 6,000 new defensive missiles, including high-explosive weapons, and £25m from Foreign Office funds to help Ukraine pay its military and police forces. Not all of the missiles are expected to be next-generation light anti-tank weapons (NLAWs) - of which Britain has already provided more than 4,200.
From the outset, the British government has taken a leading role alongside the US in underwriting Ukraine's war effort and has refused to support the peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. In the lead-up to Russia's military action, Johnson met with Lithuanian and Polish leaders to discuss battle plans, deployed specialist British troops to the region and to Ukraine, taking sides in the civil war in Ukraine, training thousands of snipers for the neo-Nazi Azov brigades and provided a welter of weapons. In the current situation, it is reported that Boris Johnson has daily phone conversations to co-ordinate war efforts in Ukraine, which was further revealed by the readiness of the Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, to engage in what turned out to be a call from someone posing as the Ukrainian Prime Minister. The Defence Secretary was filmed saying that the UK would send more missiles but was "running out of our own" on a hoax call last week.
In what has been described as "NATO Enhanced Forward Presence" in Eastern Europe, NATO has also activated, for the first time its "40,000-strong Response Force". It comprises land, air, sea and special forces units "capable of being deployed quickly on operations wherever needed".
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg previewing  the NATO summit on Thursday said: "There are now hundreds of thousands of Allied troops at heightened readiness across the Alliance, 100,000 US troops in Europe and 40,000 forces under direct NATO command, mostly in the eastern part of the alliance. All backed by major air and naval power, including five carrier strike groups in the High North and in the Mediterranean. At the Summit tomorrow, we will make further decisions. I expect leaders will agree to strengthen NATO's posture in all domains. With major increases to our forces in the eastern part of the Alliance. On land, in the air, and at sea. The first step is the deployment of four new NATO battlegroups. In Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. Along with our existing forces in the Baltic countries and Poland, this means that we will have eight multinational NATO battlegroups all along the eastern flank, from the Baltic to the Black Sea."
During his press conference, Stoltenberg said that the NATO summit would also confront China's support and pursuit of a peaceful outcome for the Russia/Ukraine peace talks. Stoltenberg gave blatant lies and disinformation about China's position and posed the threat of spreading NATO's military provocations from Russia to China as well.
The ramped up troop deployments to eastern Europe and further militarisation of Ukraine will not bring about a peaceful solution for Ukraine, Russia, or the people of Europe. What further conflicts, as has happened with NATO's military arming of Ukraine, will it give rise to? NATO has never worked to preserve peace and security for the peoples of Europe, or the world as its provocations against China over the last few years reveal. Its participation in US wars of aggression against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria and its military involvement in provoking Russia in Ukraine, provide whatever proof is required to show that it is not a force for peace or security.
1. UK doubles number of missiles sent to Ukraine ahead of Nato summit - The Guardian
2. NATO leaders will decide on next steps to protect and defend all Allies - NATO
NATO is significantly expanding its troop presence in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. This is one of the outcomes of the most recent summit meeting of heads of states and governments of the military alliance convened on March 24 in Brussels. According to the agreement, the number of NATO battlegroups will be doubled due to the stationing of new units in Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria; while more fighter aircraft, warships and aircraft carrier battle groups will be sent to the region. NATO troop locations form an arc stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Manoeuvres, where NATO is currently practising warfare, stretch from the high north to the Mediterranean.
According to the decision of the summit, four new NATO battlegroups - in Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria - will be added to the four already existing in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. NATO's military locations, as Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, now form a long arc stretching "from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea."  Another build-up of troops is currently in discussion. According to reports, the NATO units in Eastern and Southeastern Europe "could be expanded to eight brigades." A decision to this effect is expected to be taken in June at the NATO summit in Madrid. NATO will already increase its number of fighter jets in the eastern member countries charged with air policing, and deploy Patriot air defence batteries in some countries. In addition, more aircraft carrier battle groups, submarines and other warships will regularly enter the region. According to Stoltenberg, the naval presence will extend "from the High North to the Mediterranean," and if possible, all the way into the Black Sea.
The expansion of NATO's troop presence in Eastern and Southeastern Europe was planned before the war in Ukraine, and even before the Ukraine crisis escalated, at the end of October 2021. In late 2021, it became known that the realization of these plans was already quite advanced. As the implementation became concrete in mid-February 2022, resistance began to grow, this was the case, for example, in Slovakia, where the conclusion of a troop agreement with the US met with strong protests. For the time being, it seems this resistance has been calmed - although not completely, and not everywhere. Observers, for example, point out that Hungary is still refusing to have a significant number of foreign NATO troops stationed there on a long-term basis. The battle group stationed in Hungary, should therefore be comprised almost entirely of Hungarian soldiers. In Bulgaria, the share of foreigners must also remain limited, and the command of the battle group remains with the national military .
NATO manoeuvres currently taking place or having ended only a few days ago, provide good evidence of just how advanced NATO's planning against Russia had been before the Ukraine conflict had escalated in the autumn of 2021. Manoeuvres were prepared in the course of many months. For example, the combat exercise Cold Response 22 has the objective of exercising warfare under arctic conditions. Around 30,000 soldiers from 27 countries are participating. This is the largest manoeuvre in the Arctic since the end of the Cold War. Units of ground, air, and naval forces are involved, including two NATO carrier strike groups led by the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman and Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales. According to a preliminary report back in April 2021, the region of Norway's Ofoten, where the Cold Response 22 exercise would be concentrated, is "of core strategic importance in case of a larger global conflict involving Russia in the North-Atlantic". The area is about "600 kilometres from the Kola Peninsula" where the Russian Northern Fleet's nuclear submarines are based .
The Dynamic Manta 2022 manoeuvre ended on March 4. In this manoeuvre in the centre of the Mediterranean, surface warfare was exercised, on the one hand, and anti-submarine warfare, on the other. Warships, submarines and aviation from altogether nine NATO countries took part. Dynamic Manta is one of two regularly held series of NATO manoeuvres, where anti-submarine combat is exercised. The second, is the Dynamic Mongoose and is exercised either off the coast of Northern Norway or near Iceland. Dynamic Mongoose is carried out in a maritime region, where submarines of Russia's Northern Fleet must cross, when they leave the Kola peninsula to enter the Atlantic, whereas the area for Dynamic Manta is in relative proximity to the Bosporus and the Dardanelle, where Russian Black Sea submarines can enter the Mediterranean.
1. Press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the extraordinary Summit of NATO Heads of State and Government. nato.int 24.03.2022.
2. Thomas Nilsen: Norway to host biggest exercise inside Arctic Circle since Cold War. thebarentsobserver.com 14.04.2021.
Article from TASS, June 24, 2021
NATO member states continue building up their military expenditures despite the slump in GDP during the pandemic, and this spending together with US appropriations exceed the Russian Army budget by almost 20 times, Secretary of Russia's Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said at the Moscow international conference on security.
Many in the West keep talking about Russia's alleged aggressive and expansionist policy, the security chief noted.
"But let us look at the facts: NATO countries continue to allocate larger proportions of funds for military goals. Although the global GDP shrank by more than 6% in the pandemic period in 2020, the alliance's military spending grew almost by 4%. In absolute figures, NATO's military expenditures, excluding the United States, exceed the Russian Army budget by almost five times and almost by 20 times, taking the US military appropriations into account," Russia's security chief emphasised.
"Russia knows well the harmful consequences that the bloc-based policy can bring about for international and regional security," Patrushev pointed out.
"The recent NATO summit demonstrated an unprecedented anti-Russian charge and confirmed the alliance's claims for the role of a global police force. In this situation, the policy assumed by Russia towards building up its defense capability holds no alternative for us today," the Russian security chief stressed.
According to the Russians themselves, Russian military spending is just 5% of NATO military spending. That is about right.
Total NATO spending is over 1 trillion dollars a year. Russian defence spending in 2019 was $65.1 billion a year, just higher than the UK. So nominally Russian spending is a little over 6% of NATO spending a year. Of course, purchasing power in the defence industry makes nominal calculations not entirely helpful. Here is a short link from an excellent discussion from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute of the factors that might make Russian real resources put into defence greater than the nominal total:
Nonetheless, there are strong indications that military goods and services cost less in Russia than in the USA or most of Europe and, therefore, that Russian military spending has a higher purchasing power. For example, unlike the USA and other large European states, Russia still relies on conscription. In addition, Russian career soldiers have lower salaries: for example, in 2019 a Russian lieutenant colonel received approximately $1330 per month, whereas a (lower-ranked) captain in the British Army received more than $4000 monthly. Adequate data to make a similar comparison of the cost of acquiring military equipment is not available.
Converting Russian military expenditure using GDP-based PPP rates (based on data from the International Monetary Fund) gives spending of $166 billion in 2019 (instead of $65.1 billion using market exchange rates). This is still less than one-quarter of US spending of $732 billion. A similar calculation gives Chinese military spending of over $500 billion (instead of $261 billion using market exchange rates).
I would argue that while paying and feeding troops may be indeed be much cheaper in Russia, military hardware costs are much dependent on metals, processors and other internationally traded commodities and an overall comparison to the simple relative cost of living PPP index for Russia is not appropriate. But even using the general IMF PPP calculator, Russian defence spending is, at the very most, 12% of NATO spending.
The idea that NATO has to spend more to match the threat to NATO of Russia is plainly a nonsense.
So those of us who have always opposed NATO's militarism, NATO's involvement in illegal wars and NATO's massive propaganda operation aimed at boosting the funds fed in to the arms manufacturers, the security services and the military, should welcome the opportunity for growing understanding that a large portion of this defence expenditure is not necessary.
Finally, a couple of thoughts on nuclear weapons. Putin has put his nuclear forces at some kind of initial alert level. In a rational world, this would lead to an increased demand for genuine attempts at nuclear disarmament negotiations, but again I fear that is not in the interest of the elites who control governments. NATO's insistence on pushing missile systems ever closer to a nuclear-armed Russia and continually ratcheting up Russia's fear of aggressive encirclement, will make it extremely unlikely that Russia will have any interest in disarmament. Which is so obvious, it proves NATO has absolutely no interest in disarmament either.
NATO does not defend the interests of the people of Europe. It embodies the interests of the global elite, who benefit from feeding the military industrial complex. NATO is an instrument of the military and the weapons manufacturers. To exist, it needs an enemy. NATO's role will always be to secure its own existence and its controllers' cashflow, by creating enemies.
P&O Ferries has made 786 seafaring staff redundant, but reportedly with some crews initially defying orders and refusing to leave their cabins. The workers were told in a three-minute video message on March 17 that they were losing their jobs "with immediate effect". The company are intending to boost profits by sacking workers and replacing them with substitute labour on far worse pay and conditions. There are also concerns about a pension scheme for 20,000 present and former British seafarers. It has emerged that P&O Ferries owes the Merchant Navy Ratings Pension Fund about £140 million. P&O shoulders about 30% of the fund's liabilities, but had deferred contributions claiming that its finances were fragile.
The workers and their union have concluded that it is an issue of control of the company and decision-making that is highlighted. Workers intend to put the full weight of their organisation behind their claim on the operation and restrict the monopoly right to decide and fight for their own rights.
RMT said crewmembers were being "replaced with foreign labour". Private security officers were sent onto ships to remove staff on board.
P&O have attempted to use surprise and lightning strike activities as it says its interests dependent on "making swift and significant changes now". It appears that the government were forewarned about this action, and did nothing, despite all the feigned outrage in the House of Commons, which cost them nothing. Indeed, the brutal sackings came a day after the visit of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Dubai, UAE. P&O Ferries is owned by DP World, a company owned by the ruling family in Dubai. And last year the government blocked a bill that would have outlawed the "fire and rehire" methods used by P&O. Nevertheless, DP World has exercised dictatorial powers with British government complicity whatever the legality of its actions.
The company has been bleating about its profits, which it says determines the viability of the company as a business. They say that profits, pre-pandemic, have turned to losses. They say, "In its current state, P&O Ferries is not a viable business. We have made a £100m loss year on year, which has been covered by our parent DP World. This is not sustainable. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries." However, as The Times reported, "the shipping giant DP World, is awash with cash: last month it announced record revenue, up 15% to $3.8bn". Indeed, DP World boasts on its website about its "record results" and "strong financial results".
Sailings have been cancelled and passengers told to shop elsewhere and use other companies. Services scheduled include 14 between Dover and Calais, three between Liverpool and Dublin and seven between Larne in County Antrim and Cairnryan in Dumfries and Galloway. All of these are affected by the terms of the EU withdrawal agreement.
The union said it has instructed members to stay on board their vessels once they have docked or risk being "locked out" of their jobs. "We are digging in for the long-haul. We are determined to fight," RMT spokesperson Geoff Martin said. Workers have refused to disembark and are instead, "in their cabins refusing to work".
The workers and their union have responded to this sudden attack on their livelihoods by embarking on a fight for their rights.
Stand As One with the P&O Seafarers! No to the Exercise of Dictatorial Powers!
A demonstration organised by the RMT demanded the reinstatement of sacked P&O workers. Demonstrators gathered on March 21 at Palace Street in London to demand the immediate reinstatement of the workers and the resignation of P&O Ferries CEO Peter Hebblethwaite. There were also calls to "seize the ships" and put the company under public ownership.
After gathering at the DP World offices in Palace Street, near Buckingham Palace, the demonstration marched to Parliament Square where RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch spoke, as well Jeremy Corbyn and several Labour MPs. Speakers emphasised the shameless nature of the attack and the dismal state of British employment legislation and workers' rights. They enjoined the politicians speaking out against the attacks in Parliament to put their money where their mouths were and join the rally.
What came through in the demonstration and rally is that this attack has implications for the defence of the rights of all working people.
Demonstrations also took place at Liverpool, Dover and Hull, as well as Cairnryan and Larne. Further demonstrations are planned.
Goldsmiths College UCU and Unison have been taking industrial action (#GoldStrike) to oppose redundancies at Goldsmiths, University of London. According to the University and College Union (UCU), 52 workers are threatened with losing their jobs in a fire-and-rehire "restructuring" programme.
The plan, being pushed by Goldsmiths' authorities - the Senior Management Team headed by Warden Frances Corner - aims to cut staff as part of an agreement with banks to cut £6 million from the college budget over two years. As such, the job losses are the tip of an iceberg and further redundancies are expected.
This year, 20 academic posts in the departments of English & Creative Writing and History are threatened along with 32 professional services employees. UCU explains that this will have serious consequences for the continued existence of courses in those departments. "Academic job losses targeted at the history and creative writing departments threaten teaching in queer and black history," said one lecturer. "Non-academic cuts involve centralising administration; effectively, current staff would have to compete for their posts. Administrative reorganisation by cutting support staff in academic departments will lead to chaos."
UCU point out that a key issue at stake is the influence of banks in higher education. The background, according to the union, is that years of financial mismanagement have left the university with a £12.7m deficit. Goldsmiths UCU says the "recovery plan" is a deal that was struck with Lloyds Bank and NatWest, negotiated by the consultancy firm KPMG, committing to £4 million of staff cuts this year followed by £2 million next year.
"We got the result (86% for strike, 70% turnout)," said Goldsmiths UCU in a Twitter post following the ballot. "This is a dispute of national significance: we can't allow banks (@LloydsBank and @NatWestGroup) to dictate job cuts."
"If these cuts were to be carried out, they would cause administrative chaos, undermine Goldsmiths' critical humanities provision, and do little to put the College on a secure financial footing," said UCU, while Unison said: "The branch remains convinced that our position - that no compulsory redundancies are necessary, and that the pay of affected staff should be protected - is reasonable and achievable in the current circumstances."
As is now the norm in the sector, much teaching is carried out by low-paid and casualised staff who have borne the brunt of cuts over the last two years. One associate lecturer tweeted on "Justice for Workers [Goldsmiths]" (@CleanersFor): "As a casualised associate lecturer [AL] I get paid £6,314.24 for the year. This is one of the better casualised gigs I've had. 40% of teaching at Goldsmiths is done by ALs. 5% of the total budget is paid on ALs." It has not escaped notice of the striking workers that, in contrast, the Warden enjoys a salary of over £200,000.
In the latest round of action, UCU members struck for ten out of twenty working days in February, and so far, four in March. Unison members struck from March 2-4.
Goldsmiths UCU has launched a global academic boycott of the college as part of their action and a number of external examiners have resigned in solidarity. The union is asking staff and the wider academic community to refuse to: speak at events that do not directly contribute to core teaching duties; participate in certain partnership enterprises with Goldsmiths; write for any academic journal edited at or produced by Goldsmiths; and other such measures. UCU is also urging all external speakers invited to participate in events at Goldsmiths to refuse to collaborate with the institution.
Due to continued management rejection of all counterproposals and the very short timescale for the redundancies, Goldsmiths UCU announced new strike dates of March 16-18 and 21-25. They are also initiating a marking boycott from the end of the spring term and are reballoting for further industrial action.
There is a mood of unity and militancy predominant amongst staff and students, and the picket lines have been vibrant. They are determined that the GoldStrike will succeed in its aims, and Workers' Weekly calls on its readers to give it every support.
More news about the dispute can be found here: https://goldsmithsucu.org./#news
Details of the Goldsmiths strike fund can be found here: https://goldsmithsucu.org/2021/10/19/gucu-strike-fund/
Higher education staff have been engaged in strike action as part of their long-running combined struggle over pensions, pay and conditions, in the general context of safeguarding the future of higher education. They have been taking repeated action since 2018. The University and College Union (UCU) lists sixty-eight universities as impacted, involving over 50,000 staff. The union has labelled the strikes a "fight for the future of higher education".
The latest phase began on December 1 last year, staff held a 3-day strike after university management refused to withdraw pension cuts and meet demands over pay and working conditions. UCU members were joined by Unison members at 10 institutions.
A significant feature of the struggle has been the bringing together of strands relating to working conditions and the claims of education workers over the value they create in the form of pay and pensions, which have all come under attack against the background of an increasingly capital-centric higher education system.
As explained by the UCU, there are actually two separate disputes: the devastating cuts to university staff's USS pensions, and the falling pay and the employers' refusal to address pay gaps, precarious employment, and unsafe workloads.
The latter dispute is termed the "Four Fights" by the union, as it combines action over:
University employers consistently fail to address any of these issues, says the union.
Regarding the rising workloads, staff are engaged in a campaign of action short of a strike called "Reclaim Our Time" . The union explains that most higher education contracts specify a nominal working week of 35-38 hours. In the case of many academic staff, there is a further contractual stipulation that staff may be expected work beyond those hours as reasonably requested by their line manager. The purpose of this particular campaign, say the union, is to expose how much of staff well-being and free time is regularly sacrificed just to keep the system afloat, by simply asking all members to work to contract.
On the issue of the claims of university staff, the UCU say that, since 2009, pay has effectively been cut by nearly 20% in real terms. Furthermore, the employers' own analysis highlights that women, black and minority ethnic, and disabled staff experience significant pay discrimination, the union points out. The union also highlights that some 3,000 staff were made redundant during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the USS pension has effectively been cut by £240,000, say the UCU, and, in the latest cycle of the dispute, employers are proposing further cuts of 35% to the guaranteed pension .
The current strikes began on February 14, starting with action on the university pension for the first week. Then two days of join action were held at the beginning of the following week, covering both disputes. Then, starting on February 28, were three days of strikes over pay and conditions. Rolling strike action was planned from March 7, along with an escalation of action short of strike.
It is significant that the final day of the strike action is timed to coincide with a student strike on March 2, organised by the NUS, to be held in solidarity with the staff disputes and which is calling for higher and further education to be free at the point of use.
Support for action has been solid. In the November 5 ballot, 70.1% UCU members backed strike action and 84.9% voted for action short of strike. In what UCU General Secretary Jo Grady called a "nationally-orchestrated move by employers to bully and intimidate UCU members", the management of certain universities had threatened 100% pay reductions for staff taking even action short of a strike.
As Workers' Weekly pointed out in 2020 at an earlier phase of this struggle: "The method of imposition and refusal to negotiate, combined with the threat of police powers, is to disrupt the formation of an outlook that recognises education workers, whether academic or not, as adding huge value to the economy. The work done by university staff produces highly skilled graduates and postgraduates with a massive productive capacity, and in a more general sense contributes to the cultural level of society; the universities themselves give rise to scientific and technological advances. It is important that this value is recognised. Not only is it not recognised, it is not realised; that is, its value is not paid for by those that utilise it. Enterprises, particularly big business, benefit directly through their highly-educated workforce and the science and technology they employ, a benefit that takes the form of greater productivity and for which they do not pay."
Economic issues are intimately connected with the nature of the university system itself and what higher education is for. Education is a right and should serve the people. Academics and higher education workers in struggle for their rights and conditions are fighting for the rights of all. It is an issue of control over the direction society is headed, as an educated population is key to a new direction of the economy and democracy. In this sense the workers and academics are forming the new outlook where people can think and act in their own name. This is the pathway opening for the workers to take control over their lives and destiny and constituting themselves as the authority.
Workers' Weekly continues to fully support the university staff and wishes them every success in their actions.
1. Action short of a strike consists of working to contract and not undertaking any voluntary activities. It also means not counteracting the effects of the strike action such as covering for absences, sharing material from or rescheduling cancelled classes, and so on.
2. The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has been in place for over 45 years. It is a defined-benefit pension scheme open to all academic staff, generally available in universities established before 1992. Major changes were imposed in 2014-15 to the detriment of members of the scheme.
As part of the SOS-NHS national day of action on February 26, a rally was co-hosted by the North East People's Assembly, and the Keep Our NHS Public North East at Grey's Monument, Newcastle. The organisers pointed out that the NHS is facing its worst crisis ever. This is a national emergency in which, despite heroic efforts by staff, the performance for ordinary people has sunk to its worst ever level due to privatisation and disinvestment. The underlying problems which existed before the pandemic have been deepened by the continued high level of Covid infections. The NHS needs emergency funds to save lives now.
Speakers at the rally included Dave Allan (Unite National Exec Committee), Dr Pam Wortley (Socialist Health Association), Roger Nettleship (Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign), Tay Pitman (Newcastle Green Party), Sean Fahey (North East Pensioners Association), Dr Helen Groom (Retired GP, NHS campaigner and member of the "No to Hassockfield Campaign"), Stacey Richardson (NHS Staff Voices, North East Peoples Assembly), and Jude Letham (Keep Our NHS Public North East).
We reproduce below the speech given on behalf of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign.
We would like to bring you the support of the activists and supporters of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC) to this SOS NHS emergency day of action organised by Keep Our NHS Public North East and North East Peoples Assembly organisations which we have worked alongside for over 6 years.
The fact that we have to call for emergency funding, for investing in a fully publicly owned NHS and to pay staff properly shows how far particularly the present government and successive governments have taken the NHS by fragmenting it into competing Trusts and opening it up to increasing privatisation. This whole corporate direction has become not only marked by the loss of vital hospital beds, vital hospital services and staff but a regime in control that refuses to listen to the public concerns. We are the ones justified in our calls to to retain and improve health and social services in our local areas, towns and cities.
This is why it is so vital that the people of every area take up the fight to not only save our health services but to involve everyone in speaking out and becoming ourselves the new public authority, a public authority that those in power are increasingly abandoning to the corporate directors of private and so-called public bodies. The most profitable sectors of the NHS, supplies, diagnostics, elective surgery are already handed over to the health care corporations and even within our own NHS Trusts. Some 40% of elective operations are now done in the private sector.
In South Tyneside vital imaging services are being handed to the private sector under a national and local contract of NHS England and Department of Health to the Alliance Medical Corporation. For a long time minor urgent care has been handed to a private company Vocare at South Tyneside and Sunderland.
SSTHC has fought for 6 years against the downgrading of South Tyneside District Hospital (STDH). Our petition of over 40,000 was handed in last year to Parliament. Our Judicial Review was finally rejected by the Supreme Court last year after a 3 year fight in the courts. However this so-called "path to excellence" that closed our full maternity services cannot now sustain the midwife led unit that they put in its place. As we predicted it has already temporarily closed twice and has been closed since January 4th.
There is the continued worry for parents with the loss of our 24/7 consultant led children's A&E. Added to this even though staff have performed with great resolve and professional courage in the pandemic we now have 45 thousand patients that are on the waiting lists for operations in South Tyneside and Sunderland, partly because of the halt of elective care that was ordered during the pandemic. However, the waiting lists pre-date the pandemic and have been caused primarily by the previous closures of beds and services. Now we are faced with the authorities quoting the pandemic as the justification to further downgrade South Tyneside District Hospital acute services. Now they want to transfer all emergency surgery to Sunderland which will further undermine the Accident emergency at ST. This when prior to the pandemic and during it, the A&E at STDH, with its emergency surgery has played an indispensable role.
Of course we do listen to the need to modernise services but what is happening is that they are not taking account of the concerns of the people because these changes in health and social care services, and their continued privatisation, are driven by corporate considerations and not human centred considerations. They do not, and will not meet the needs of the people for a 21st century. It is not a path to excellence as they claim. It is a wrecking of the public health care system in the interests replacing it with the anarchy of the private sector which has always eliminated the right to healthcare.
The necessity is for a public healthcare system that is human centred. A human centred system is where health staff and the communities engage to provide health and social care that is accessible to all day and night. For a modern borough like South Tyneside with a growing population 160,000 plus it is not acceptable that our hospitals do not provide full maternity services, a consultant-led Children's A&E and an A&E with all the acute services necessary. It is the people who should decide. They are our hospitals, they are our workplaces and it is our NHS. Health care is as right!
The report of the People's Covid Inquiry, Misconduct in Public Office - Why did so many thousands die unnecessarily? , was released on Wednesday, December 1. The main inquiry which ran from February 24 - June 16, 2021 on zoom, was chaired by the renowned barrister Michael Mansfield who has fought for people's rights on many occasions, including the Lewisham People's Commission of Enquiry into the proposals to close Lewisham hospital's A&E, maternity and children's services in 2013. The other panellists were: Neena Modi, Professor of Neonatal Medicine, Imperial College London and President of the British Medical Association; Dr Tolullah Oni, Urban Epidemiologist & Public Health physician at the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge and Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge and the African Academy of Sciences; Dr Jacky Davis, an NHS consultant radiologist at Whittington Hospital in North London, and a founder member of Keep Our NHS Publi c; Lorna Hacket, counsel to the inquiry, a barrister and co-founder of Hackett & Dabbs, specialising in human rights and public law.
The report publishes the evidence presented to the eight sessions  and includes some 40 inquiry witnesses, and additional video testimonies. In drawing its conclusions the report says: "The Government was not prepared for a global pandemic despite warnings that one was coming. When it arrived, they ignored clear warnings of the dangers and did too little too late. During the decade before the pandemic successive Conservative Governments had run down public services, including the NHS, public health and care services, with the result that they were already in crisis when the pandemic struck. The pandemic then shone a light on long term problems in society around inequalities and discrimination and exacerbated them. The poorest and most vulnerable were hit the hardest and died in disproportionate numbers."
The report itemises findings and recommendations holding the government to account on each of the following:
We give here just some of the recommendations made by the Inquiry:
In his preface to the report Michael Mansfield points out: "It was plain to Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), the organisers of the People's Covid Inquiry, that Government words were bloated hot air, hoping to delay and obfuscate. Within this narrative lies a theme of behaviour amounting to gross negligence by the Government, whether examined singularly or collectively. There were lives lost and lives devastated, which was foreseeable and preventable. From lack of preparation and coherent policy, unconscionable delay, through to preferred and wasteful procurement, to ministers themselves breaking the rules, the misconduct is earth-shattering. The public deserves the truth, recognition, and admissions."
In other words, central to the inquiry was the government's failure to protect key populations at increased risk, and evidence that recommendations from previous pandemic planning exercises had been ignored. The government had ignored a previous report by Amnesty International - As if Expendable released in October 4, 2020 - that had exposed the government's shockingly irresponsible decisions which abandoned care home residents to die .
Speaking about the People's Covid Inquiry report to The Guardian , Jo Goodman, a co-founder of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, which contributed to the inquiry, said: "It's vital that bereaved families are at the heart of the forthcoming (government) inquiry, and listened to at every turn, and this report evidences exactly why. The loss of our loved ones should be used to learn lessons and save lives - something the government should be entirely focused on and dedicated to."
The People's Covid Inquiry has revealed many things about the way society is run as a result of the Covid pandemic. The Inquiry recommendations call for an end to the continuation of the government-led path of a corporate direction to the health and social care system, and an end to the misconduct this causes. It is a corporate-led system which has led to such tragic outcomes for the most vulnerable in society during the pandemic. The Inquiry calls for those responsible for these reckless decisions to be brought to account. It indicates the necessity to start building a new human-centred system of health and social care that meets the needs of all and is a right for all and that is capable to dealing with such health emergencies as the coronavirus pandemic.
 Misconduct in Public Office - Why did so many thousands die
 How well prepared was the NHS?
 Amnesty Report - As if Expendable; Report on the Government's
Shockingly Irresponsible Decisions Which Abandoned Care Home Residents to
 Ministers should face misconduct charges over Covid crisis, say UK campaigners
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