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Volume 41 Number 4, February 19, 2011 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Support the Egyptian People’s Revolution! Oppose Britain’s “Active and Distinctive Voice”!

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

Support the Egyptian People’s Revolution! Oppose Britain’s “Active and Distinctive Voice”!

Support the Egyptian Revolution!

Letter to the Editor:
BBC Reports on Iran

Hands Off Benefits! No to the Welfare Reform Bill!

Commentary:
Big Society=No Society?

Militant South Tyneside PSA Town Hall Rally in Defence of Public Services

Vigorous Lobby of the British Medical Association

Militant and Determined Demonstration against Isle of Wight Cuts

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Support the Egyptian People’s Revolution! Oppose Britain’s “Active and Distinctive Voice”!

Egyptians in Tahrir Square mourn -Xinhua
Egyptians in Tahrir Square mourn those who lost their lives
to violent government repression, February 12, 2011

The wave of political protest which is sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East has continued last week with reports of demonstrations and strikes in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran and other countries, in which several protesters have lost their lives. The interference and machinations of the big powers, especially Anglo-American imperialism, in this region have also continued with concerted efforts being made to divert the popular uprising in Egypt and the protests in other countries along lines that are favourable to their interests.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary William Hague gave a statement to Parliament reporting on his visit to Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, and the UAE last week. He also made comments on the government’s efforts to interfere in the internal affairs of Egypt following the toppling of Mubarak and gave some indications of the government’s aims throughout the region. One notable feature of the Foreign Secretary’s statement, and the questions and comments from MPs that followed, was that everything was imbued with a colonial and Eurocentric logic and arrogance that suggested that the entire region was still a part of the British empire. Of course, it cannot be forgotten that the British imperialists of the past did have much of this region in their clutches and exercised colonial domination in Egypt, Jordan, Iran and Yemen, as well as in countries which were nominally independent such as Bahrain and what is now the UAE. In regard to Yemen, for example, Hague made it clear that Anglo-American imperialism is openly making demands of that country’s government, and attempting to direct Yemen’s economic and military affairs.

Egypt

The Foreign Secretary made it clear that Britain’s aim is to establish political and economic systems in this region that are in “the national interest” and based on “universal values”, by which is meant the interests of the monopolies and financial institutions and based on the neo-liberal values of the Paris Charter. Britain is therefore liaising its efforts with both the EU and the US. In regard to Tunisia and Egypt, various “aid” is being offered which, it is intended, will continue to bind these countries to the imperialist system of states. We shall see. In this connection, Hague mentioned that the government was already in contact with the IMF and World Bank in order that they might provide “support” for Egypt. However, as these two institutions have presided over the impoverishment of the masses of the people throughout the region, it is already evident what kind of “support” they will provide.

The government’s aim of managing the protests in North Africa and the Middle East and embracing the opportunity they present to further the interests of Anglo-American imperialism in the region were welcomed throughout the House of Commons. In response to specific questions, Hague made it clear that the government was using all means at its disposal to continue to interfere throughout the region. In this regard, he stressed the importance of such institutions as the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which has played such a notorious interventionist role in Zimbabwe and other countries. This sinister organisation has just received additional funding and is being readied for action in Egypt, Tunisia and other countries where it is the government’s intention to establish political parties and “civil society” organisations which are under its influence and based around its “universal values”.

Arab women AFP

It is clear that the coalition government, with Labour Party support, is pursuing a policy of encouraging political and economic reforms throughout the region and in this respect favouring “evolution” rather than “revolution”. However, it is also quite possible that the people’s protests, which are provoked by the economic, political and military interference of Anglo-American imperialism in the region in the past, may have unexpected consequences and make it more difficult for the big powers to manoeuvre. It could well be. The British government certainly appears concerned that its efforts to enforce the so-called “two state solution” in regard to Palestine may well be doomed to failure and is therefore anxious to re-start what it refers to as the “peace process” as soon as possible. It is equally anxious to continue to put pressure on and destabilise the government in Iran, which may also gain support from the political changes that are sweeping the region.

The government continues to present itself as the friend of all those seeking political reforms and genuine democracy throughout North Africa and the Middle East and one senior Conservative declared that he “unreservedly welcomed the Egyptian revolution”. However, whether supporting military dictatorship one day or revolution the next the government remains the sworn enemy of the people’s interests both at home and abroad. What must be demanded is that it ceases its machinations and ends all interference in the region. In North Africa and the Middle East, the people must decide their own futures and will be their own liberators.

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Support the Egyptian Revolution!


Rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday, February 12 to express support for the Egyptian people

The TUC, together with Amnesty International and many others, organised a rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday, February 12, to express support for the Egyptian people, who had just the day before toppled Mubarak.

International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) General Secretary Sharan Burrow, UCU (University and College Union) General Secretary Sally Hunt, International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) General Secretary David Cockroft and NUJ President Pete Murray joined Amnesty International secretary general Salil Shetty and many Egyptian protesters to speak from the main stage, as the Square filled with thousands from across the Arab world and beyond.

In their speeches, the trade unionists all drew attention to the need to ensure that what happened next was not merely the replacement of one elite by another. And they drew attention to the key role played by workers and new, independent trade unions in Egypt.

The Tyneside Stop the War Coalition also held a rally at Newcastle Monument as part of the global action day in support of the uprising of the people of Egypt. The action was supported by the northeast branch of Amnesty International. About 80 people participated in the rally, which lasted for an hour. Many organisations took part, with speakers from the area, showing the across-the-board support, from the student occupiers to the dozen or so Egyptian people themselves who were very overwhelmed but spoke and sang songs, making it a truly joyous occasion.

Rally at the Monument Newcastle
Celebrations at the end of the Rally at the Monument , Newcastle

In his concluding remarks as chair of the rally, convenor of the Tyneside Stop the War Coalition Roger Nettleship said that, as with rallies throughout the world, this rally sends a big salute to the revolutionary movement of the Egyptian people from all sections of society in Britain. We hail the unity and courage of the people in pressing forward for a new regime in Egypt. This battle for the new Egypt rages behind the Mubarak resignation. It is a battle between the people with their aspiration for the new, and the reactionary forces who are doing everything possible to maintain Egypt’s status as a US client state and to get their military force to be used for the Anglo-Zionist interests. A victory for the Egyptian people is bound to transform the situation across the Middle East and North Africa affirming the right to sovereignty for all, including the long-suffering and heroic Palestinian people. A victory for the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people is a victory for the peoples of the world in their striving to hold governments responsible for providing the human rights of all with a guarantee.

It was striking how the Egyptian people involved in these rallies in Britain had such optimism for the future which burst forth with such emotion. They have a steely determination to see things through and ensure that foreign powers were not going to get their way against the people who had been so politicised by these events.

(TUC, Tyneside Stop the War Coalition)

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Letter to the Editor

BBC Reports on Iran

The BBC ran as its main item about a week ago a story about the so-called rebellion in Iran. It seems that the Anglo-Zionist alliance uses the BBC to direct its propaganda and claimed to have a reporter there who alleged that "thousands were involved", along with some mobile phone footage which shows only about one hundred, and claimed there was tear gas fired, yet the footage shows the protesters attacking a defenceless man and no apparent tear gas. On the BBC radio news, they said one hundred or so people were involved and claimed there was tear gas.

Of course, the Iranian revolution kicked out the rapacious British imperialists’ oil monopolies, such as BP. This is one reason why Blair as "Middle East Peace Envoy" rants against the Islamic Republic on behalf of these monopolies, and with their US partners these imperialists are trying to bring about regime change from abroad and drown the Iranian people in blood once again.

It was also noticeable that the BBC has already started defining what a revolution is! Of course, they mix all kind of events, counter-revolutionary coups and democratic revolutions. They are particularly concerned that Iran is rightly likening the revolutionary upsurge of the people in Egypt to its own in 1979 against the Shah of Iran. This is pretty astute to protect the anti-imperialist gains of the Iranian revolution because the Anglo-US political elite is really uncomfortable with this because they know if the Egyptian people have their way Egypt will become democratic and anti-imperialist. So they have started defining what revolution is to paint it more like some counter-revolutionary coup that they have orchestrated in the past to impose a Eurocentric multi-party state they can control from abroad.

This is a dangerous game for them. Having defined all attempts by people in the Eurocentric world and the rest of the world to bring about change as "leading to terrorism", and all protests leading to "violence", (the article “Promoting State Ideology in the Name of National Security” in Workers’ Weekly makes this point very well) they still want to define revolutions abroad that suit their interests for regime change to complete the hypocrisy of their bankrupt ideology.

In his statement on Egypt, Obama declared Egypt as an example of those peaceful revolutions which should be supported by the people because it does not need to commit terrorism. How it was peaceful beggars belief when he ignored the terrorist violence of the Egyptian state that the US financed in killing 300 Egyptian martyrs. He also fails to condemn the US state terrorism launched against the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere and the more than one million people killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since their "war on terror" started.

They Shall Not Pass! Hands Off Iran

Member of South Tyneside Stop the War Coalition

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Hands Off Benefits! No to the Welfare Reform Bill!

The Coalition government, as part of its stepping up of the anti-social offensive against the people and the wrecking of social programmes, has introduced its Welfare Reform Bill.

The Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, introduced it in the House of Commons on February 16, and Prime Minister David Cameron extolled its virtues in a speech the following day.

The Bill is supposed to characterise welfare in the 21st century. Rather it characterises a conception of welfare of the 19th, that the wretched poor and unemployed are to blame for their own plight, not society, combined with a medieval ideology that everyone in this Big Society has the responsibility to fend for themselves, and that vagabonds must be punished.

The major proposal for reform is the introduction of a new “universal credit”, which will replace in and out of work benefits. The Bill also makes provision for a “personal independence payment”, which will replace the existing Disability Living Allowance.

The “universal credit” will be paid to people both in and out of work, replacing working tax credit, child tax credit, council tax benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and income-related Employment and Support Allowance. The original intention that it should also replace Housing Benefit is said to have been modified.

The aim of the Bill is claimed by the government to be to combat the “benefits-lifestyle culture”. Should not this refer to the lifestyle of the rich, who pocket fabulous sums in bonuses, share options and dividends, and the like, not to mention the dependency of the financial oligarchs on government support, nor to mention their tax-avoidance schemes which are estimated to cost the public treasury some £120 billion per annum?

In fact, this conception of a “benefit-dependency culture” directly negates the right in a modern society of people for food, shelter and clothing as fundamental. If there are problems in society, which there clearly are, then they should be addressed. But the government denies them or says they are out of their hands, and that it is the people who must take shoulder the burden and take up the responsibility for sorting out the problems.

The other prong of the government’s attack is one of cutting social spending and refusing to invest in the economy other than ensuring the rich continue to flourish. The trickle-down effect was discredited with the demise of Margaret Thatcher, but the consequences of adopting this outlook are being felt in the Coalition’s assault on social programmes with a vengeance – “tougher sanctions” for those that fail to appreciate the benefits of this effect. So now it is the claimant who has the “responsibilities” which they will be required to meet. These are the “claimant commitments” which if the person does not abide by they will be sanctioned. For example, “if you’re unemployed and refuse to take either a reasonable job or to do some work in your community in return for your unemployment benefit you will lose your benefits for three months. Do it again, you’ll lose it for 6 months. Refuse a third time and you’ll lose your unemployment benefits for three years,” as Cameron declares.

Cameron presents this as a “deal”. No such “deal” when it comes to handing public money over to the rich. Even according to Cameron’s own figures, reducing “fraud, error and overpayment costs” would only save the government £1 billion a year. This is presented as “saving the taxpayer” the sums paid to those presently “stuck on welfare”.

This is not a “deal” between those entitled to receive benefits and the government. It is the responsibility of government as the representative of society to meet the claims of individuals and collectives on it. It is an insult to those individuals in need when their rights are not guaranteed, but instead the gap between rich and poor, between north and south, between the workers and the owners of capital are all growing. It is an outrage that IDS should speak of “benefit addiction” and the “sicknote culture”. The rights of the sick and vulnerable must not be trampled on in this fashion. The issue of the necessity to cut the deficit is being presented fraudulently. Stop paying the rich, and then see whether funding for social programmes should be cut or increased! Develop the manufacturing base and a self-reliant economy, and then see whether there is a “benefit addiction” or that working people can find a job with dignity!

Welfare payments cannot be considered a drain or a cost on the economy. Should not the economy be there to serve the people’s needs? The working class and people must reject the “welfare reform” programme as an attack on the honour and dignity of human beings. There is an alternative to this neo-liberal offensive of the government, and that lies in the programme to Stop Paying the Rich, Increase Investments in Social Programmes! The movement to fight for that alternative is growing before our eyes, and a conscious Workers’ Opposition must take up this fight as its key aim.

Hands off Benefits!
No to the Welfare Reform Bill!
Fight for the Alternative!


[Note: The explanatory notes to the Welfare Reform Bill may be found here.]

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Commentary

Big Society=No Society?

Prime Minister David Cameron delivered yet another speech on the “Big Society” on February 14.

“Is it too vague?  Is it going to be made impossible by cuts?  Is it a cover for cuts?” he asked. The answer might have been yes to all this questions. However, Cameron’s answer was that we “need a social recovery to mend the broken society”. To remove some of the vagueness, he elaborated that “we need people to take more responsibility”.

However, the people are demonstrating practically every day that it is the government which must take more responsibility and be held accountable for the cuts and for the fate of society. The people desire a society which works in favour of their interests, and in which they take up the ultimate responsibility of being the decision-makers. But the Westminster cartel parties are excluding them from that responsibility with a vengeance.

In fact, far from empowering people, the Big Society stands for the people fending for themselves under the guise of empowering them.

Its message is that of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, when she said that there is no such thing as society, but that children are born into families and not into society. “There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.” It is a variation of that archaic theme, that there is no social consciousness, no responsibility of government, that families have the duty to provide food, clothing and shelter and it is no business of government to guarantee them as of right, that there is no public right and a social wealth created by working people.

This – what Thatcher and Cameron are claiming – is what is really meant by being “anti-social”. In that sense, the Big Society is profoundly anti-social, it is itself the broken society.

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Militant South Tyneside PSA Town Hall Rally in Defence of Public Services

On February 16, there was rally of the South Tyneside Northern Public Service Alliance outside the South Tyneside Council Cabinet meeting at South Shields Town Hall with two hundred or so in attendance. The Cabinet was meeting at 4pm to recommend the budget which would cut £32 million from the South Tyneside Council budget this year and would lead to hundreds of job losses. The rally had been moved to 3pm so that the leader of the Council, Ian Malcolm, could address the rally. In his capacity as Secretary of the local Unison health branch, Roger Nettleship brought the support of health workers and spoke about the situation in the NHS. He also drew attention to one of the issues that is coming up at the moment and which Ian Malcolm referred to: the fact that they say that responsibility for the cuts lay with the Con-Dem government and that the Council cannot set an "illegal budget" but only had the competence to decide and vote on the “choice” of cuts. Roger Nettleship said with great conviction that what had to be understood was that it is the Con-Dem government which is setting an illegal budget that is wrecking the economy, wrecking our public services and wrecking society. In Parliament firstly, all of the discussion is about the priority going to the bankers and the super rich. Secondly, all of the discussion is that there is no alternative to cuts. They only disagree on the speed of those cuts and the choice of those cuts. The trade unions on the other hand have said that there is an alternative to the cuts to our social economy, to our public services and to our welfare benefits. The alternative means redirecting the priority of the economy from paying the bankers and the rich, redirecting it from the huge sums wasted on illegal wars of occupation, on Trident nuclear weapons and instead investing in our social economy and reviving our manufacturing base.

The rally gave the call that wherever we are and whatever position we hold in society, let’s build this union alternative. Let’s build this workers’ alternative. Let’s start from the position that it is those in Parliament that are setting the illegal budget and fight from the point of view of what is a budget that meets the needs of those who work and live in this society. Let us fight for what will benefit society and not destroy it. Defend our public services! Defend our welfare benefits! Rebuild and revive our manufacturing industry! They are our jobs, our workplaces, and our public services!

walthamstow demonstation against cuts
Demonstration on Saturday, February 19, in Walthamstow, East London, against the cuts

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Vigorous Lobby of the British Medical Association

BMA Lobby

On the evening of Thursday, February 17, up to 100 health workers and concerned people gathered outside the headquarters of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Tavistock Square, London. They were lobbying for the Association to reject the SOS NHSgovernment’s Health and Social Care Bill ahead of a debate held by the BMA’s London Regional Council. The Health Bill would put the commissioning process in the hands of GPs, thus compromising their medical advocacy as well as preparing the ground for takeover by multinational corporations. The protest included health workers and residents from Waltham Forest with their banner.

The Keep Our NHS Public protest added to the growing pressure on the BMA to change its policy of “critical engagement” to a more hostile stance. At the debate, health minister Simon Burns, shadow health minister Diane Abbott and BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum were to discuss the reforms.

Organiser and Medical Practitioner's Union president Dr Ron Singer said the aim of the protest was “to support the BMA decision makers to unequivocally reject the ill-thought out legislation”. Already some 60 per cent of doctors oppose the plans.

Dr Singer Attempts to hand in PetitionLast month police were called as Dr Singer attempted to hand a petition to health secretary Andrew Lansley at the Department of Health's Whitehall HQ. A group of more than 100 doctors has criticised the BMA's position on the NHS reforms and urged the union to take a stronger line against the proposals. A special representative meeting is due to take place on March 15 in London. The deadline for motions is February 21.

It appears that the vote at the meeting was overwhelmingly in favour of recommending a vote at the special meeting to change the BMA’s stance from “critical engagement” to opposition and to consult membership on what action to take.

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Militant and Determined Demonstration against Isle of Wight Cuts


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A demonstration of well over a thousand marched through Newport on the Isle of Wight on Saturday, February 19, against Council cuts. The demonstration started at the Medina Centre and weaved through the streets of Newport and down the High Street finishing with a rally in St Thomas Square. Taking part were council workers, teachers as well as other public sector workers including from the NHS. There were also anti-cuts campaigners from libraries, women’s groups, trades unions and Trades Councils as well as campaigners from social care services for the disabled and special needs units. Many ordinary people joined the march and swelled the ranks of the march en route.

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The demonstration stopped in the middle of the High Street outside the Council offices and shouted slogans against the cuts and those responsible for implementing them. At the end of the march, there was a rally where many speakers spoke against those responsible for the cuts such as the banks and the rich in general who are not affected. A speaker from the Trades Council related the protests over cuts and austerity measures to the protests in Egypt and pointed out the similarity of the people’s struggles when it comes to the attitudes of the rich and the people. The Regional Secretary of the Unison trade union said that if Cameron wants to see the Big Society he should come and look at the demonstration here! It was also pointed out that some of the largest debts ever recorded were after the Second World War when the most important projects to build the NHS and build council houses took place and the deficit, which is not of our making today, should not cause cuts to be made. One person said after the march that she had spoken to Conservative MP Andrew Turner, and when he had asked what she would decide to do to lower the deficit, her reply was, “Why should we choose between cuts and deficits? It is like choosing which arm to remove.”

The demonstration focused the minds of all those who took part and those who watched the demonstration pass by. The coming together of all of the different people and organisations raised their consciousness as to the overall and central political issue of the cuts, which takes on board all of the individual issues. The question was posed that now the people should take the next steps to organise even further to realise the real alternative and take control of the direction they think society should take.

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