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Volume 41 Number 12, April 16, 2011 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Britain Needs an Anti-War Government

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

Britain Needs an Anti-War Government

British Government Takes Measures to Continue Its War on Libya

RCPB(ML) Call to the Workers’ Movement and All Concerned People

Commentary:
Unison Health Service Group Conference 2011

Conference Against Academy Schools: the fight for quality state education

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Britain Needs an Anti-War Government

Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi (centre) meeting with a delegation
Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi (centre) meeting with a delegation from
the AU to negotiate a peaceful solution to the civil war in Libya

In a speech to Parliament before the Easter recess, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, continued to champion the government’s role in NATO’s military attacks on a sovereign state, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Although Hague continued to speak of how hundreds of air strikes had “prevented a huge loss of life and averted a humanitarian catastrophe”, it is common knowledge that many lives have already been lost. This week NATO has even refused to express any regret for attacking and killing those fighting against the Libyan government. The government’s alleged humanitarian concern is simply a smokescreen to camouflage its stated aim of regime change, which is to be brought about by openly supporting the Libyan anti-government forces.

Although the government makes much of the fact that it is acting legally under the vague terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, NATO is acting outside of the provisions of the UN Charter, which was established to defend the sovereignty of all countries and non-interference, to prevent aggression and to outlaw crimes against peace. In this regard, it is noteworthy that even the UNSC Resolution calls for a ceasefire, a provision that the Anglo-Americans and their allies have assiduously ignored by continuing to support an armed rebellion against the Libyan government and sidelining organisations such as the African Union which have attempted to bring it about.

The Foreign Secretary also announced that the government had sent another diplomatic mission to the opposition forces in Benghazi and was preparing to supply them with communications equipment and other assistance. In this, it was not out of step with its allies, France, Italy and Qatar, which have already recognised the so-called National Transitional Council. In fact, it is reported that the latter two have already brokered agreements regarding the export of Libyan oil. For its part, the US government has also working closely with the opposition, has already authorised “covert” support and indicated that it may arm the opposition forces. There are reports that suggest these forces are already being armed and trained by the US and Egypt. This week the head of AFRICOM stated that because of what appears to be a military stalemate US troops could be deployed.

For the Anglo-Americans, Libya is not just an important producer of oil and gas but a vitally important strategic location. It is the only African state in the Mediterranean region that is not a member of NATO’s Mediterranean Partnership Dialogue Programme and one of only five African countries that has not been integrated into AFRICOM (US Africa Command), a position it shares with Cote d’Ivoire. The current military onslaught is therefore designed not just to strengthen the position of all the big powers in the region but particularly to strengthen US/NATO domination of the Mediterranean and consequently in Africa and West Asia.

The British government, as Hague pointed out, still regards the unrest which has swept through parts of North Africa and the wider region, and which has principally been waged against regimes it backs, as a great opportunity. An opportunity not to support the legitimate demands of the people of this region for genuine empowerment and an end to foreign intervention, but in order to strengthen the hold of the Anglo-Americans over their proxies, or to establish new clients that provide strategic and economic advantage, or support their hostile intentions against Iran. It is in this context that it views events in such countries as Bahrain and Yemen. The British government has issued many pious statements about the situation in Bahrain, where the US 5th Fleet is based. But the Anglo-Americans backed the military occupation of that country, led by Saudi Arabia, which has been used to crush popular opposition to the absolute monarchy. In short, the Anglo-Americans continue to be the major supporters and military backers of the dictatorial regimes in Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere, just as they were of the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. The British government also continues to use these regimes, such as the monarchy in Qatar, to provide support for its warmongering activities in Libya.

The government is continuing on the warmongering and interventionist course of its predecessors and as the major ally of the US. It is intent on destabilising the world, even subverting the UN for this purpose, in the interest of the economic and geo-political interest of the big monopolies. It must be prevented from pursuing its dangerous path – there is therefore an urgent need to struggle to establish an anti-war government.

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British Government Takes Measures to Continue Its War on Libya

TruthThis week the government has been engaged with its closest allies in a range of activities designed to gain international support for its military assault on the people and government of the Libyan Jamahiriya.

On Thursday, David Cameron, together with the presidents of France and the US, took the unprecedented step of publishing a joint statement in the press that sought to justify the unprovoked attack on another sovereign state. The fact that the three leaders feel compelled to keep re-stating that they are acting lawfully in order to protect civilians is a strong indication that they are aware that the world knows that they are acting outside the norms of international law and the provisions of the UN Charter, while they is also ample evidence that the NATO airstrikes and cruise missile attacks have caused the deaths of civilians and even those fighting against the Libyan government.

The joint statement also attempts to find a justification for regime change, which has been the openly declared intent of Britain, France and the US from the outset. But even the carefully constructed UN resolution provides no justification for such action, so the warmongers argue “it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gaddafi in power”. The Hitlerite logic of Britain and the other warmongers is that they will continue to finance, support and arm the insurgents, and that as long as the Libyan government resists, defends its sovereignty and tries to restore order, NATO will continue its criminal attacks. If the Libyan government surrenders its sovereignty and accepts the diktat of the warmongers, the aggressors will assist in rebuilding what they have been so intent on bombing and destroying. As in the past, Britain and its allies are intent on imposing what they call “democracy” on a country that has its own system of government and direct democracy, which liberated itself from foreign domination and a feudal monarchy and now has the highest standard of living of any country in Africa.

The efforts of Britain and its allies to continue to support and finance those fighting against the Libyan government was the main focus of the Doha meeting of the so-called contact group on Libya, which also met this week. The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, who acted as co-chair of the group proposed various means to finance the rebels under the auspices of the UN and to groom the “Transitional Council” as the basis of a future government. Nevertheless, in the last few days ahead of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin, it has become clear that even within NATO there is some disquiet about the nature of the continued attacks on Libya, especially from Germany and Turkey and a lack of military support for the three main warmongers from the other member countries. This week the leaders of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South African) also issued a joint statement criticising NATO’s role.

The fact remains that there can be no justification for NATO’s assault on a sovereign country, nor for the manipulation of the UN in order to conduct regime change. Britain and its allies have done everything to undermine the UN and the international machinery established at the end of World War Two to safeguard the peace and outlaw crimes against peace. They have ushered in an era of instability in the world in which international affairs are resolved through force and on the basis that might is right. It is in the interests of all democratic people to take a stand against such crimes against peace and to step up the struggle to establish an anti-war government in Britain.

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RCPB(ML) Call to the Workers’ Movement and All Concerned People

March 26thOn March 26, over half a million people demonstrated under the banner, “March for the Alternative”. The question on everyone’s minds is how to build on this magnificent manifestation of the mass unity in action of the working class.

The major striking feature of the demonstration was that very consciousness that there is an alternative, and that it is the broad working class and its allies who represent this alternative. It was their voice that was heard on March 26, a voice that affirms that there is a different way of running society, and that it is not just a question of dealing with tax dodgers and fat cats. The March for the Alternative was a manifestation in its own right, a demonstration of the pro-social, pro-human, spirit of the working class, half-a-million who represent the majority of society taking a stand against the ruling elite.

It is this voice of the working class and its allies fighting for the alternative which is being excluded from government. Just imagine if the half-a-million who marched for the alternative were to put into effect their thinking on the direction of the economy, apply their collective wisdom to the social and political problems of society. Just imagine if they were able to bring into being some new mechanism whereby the organised workers’ movement were able to decide on the direction of society. Their viewpoints would be brought to bear, they would be able to sum up their experience, and resolve the affairs of society in their favour. They would be the decision-makers.

The cuts to social programmes and public services are a manifestation of the ideology of the rich in practice. This much is common knowledge. It follows that to oppose this anti-social programme of the rich effectively, the workers must have their own independent programme which reflects their interests and ideology. This is what is meant by the alternative. It is this debate as to what is this alternative that must be engaged in by working people in the course of their developing practical politics to defend the rights of all, to defend public services, to defend pensions, to safeguard the future of the health service and the education system, to ensure peace and security for all.

Fight For the Alternative!Fight the cuts, yes! Defend public services, of course! But release the initiative of the workers throughout society to consciously participate in summing up their experience, to discuss what the rich do not want them to discuss, to dare to envision the alternative. This is what the times are calling for!

RCPB(ML) gives the call to its members, supporters, activists and friends, to the working class as a whole, to all social forces which stand opposed to the anti-social offensive of the rich ruling elite of the owners of capital, to develop and broaden this discussion on the alternative for which they have been marching, for which they are fighting. The working class and people are fed up with the establishment saying that there is no alternative. There is an alternative! It is the very opposite of what the establishment is doing. Let us discuss how to change the situation and turn things around, let us unite not just to fight the cuts but to make the voice of the working class and its allies heard. This voice is demanding the pro-social alternative. Let us discuss this alternative and the solutions it proposes.

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Commentary

Unison Health Service Group Conference 2011

Workers’ Weekly Health Group

Unison’s Health Service Group Conference was held in Liverpool from April 4-7. Top of the agenda was the union’s Million Voices in Defence of the NHS – Our NHS Our Future project. This whole programme included building alliances against privatisation, fragmentation and cuts in the NHS. The conference confirmed its total opposition to the ConDem Coalition's White Paper – “Liberating the NHS”.

Service group chair Lilian Macer opened proceedings by telling conference delegates: "Go back to your branches and tell your members: 'The class war is on – and it's against you, it's against us'." Clare Williams, speaking on behalf of the Health Service Group Executive, said that the government's claims to be protecting the NHS were nothing more than lies. She said that with Unison launching the judicial review, what the government wants to do stands out as nothing less than decimating public services. The part played by Unison was fundamental to starting a shift in public opinion. She said if we are going to win this, we are in it for the long term. We needed to maximise our unity and reach out and build alliances in bringing together public and private and also communities that would not normally work with us. She said that the government circles are actually in turmoil and chaos and that is down to the working class movement to show leadership. She said, let us remind ourselves what Bevan said: the NHS will be there as long as people have faith in it and are prepared to fight for it. She said that if we fight we will stop this government decimating the NHS.

In addition to the health bill, of immediate concern was the threatened contracting out of blood and organ donor services.

The second day of the conference was addressed by Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison. Dave Prentis recalled a recent interview with Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond, who had received a bonus of £11m. "He had the cheek to say: 'I go to bed every night with a smile on my face.' Well our members wake up every morning worried if they've got a job to go to, worried if they've got a pension, worried if they'll be privatised. We will put up with that no longer," Dave Prentis declared.

Turning to the government's announcement that it was taking a "pause for thought" over its Bill to break up and privatise the health service, Dave Prentis added, "We want more than a pause for thought – we want Andrew Lansley to pull the Bill." And he warned the government that if it pushed ahead with its plans, "our union, our members will not allow that to happen – and if that means industrial action, so be it. We will fight for our NHS. We will fight for future generations. We marched last Saturday. Today we march again. Tomorrow we march on. We will never, ever give up."

Front of Rally Hyde Park
Massive Rally in Hyde Park on March 26th

And union vice president Eleanor Smith, a theatre nurse, also noted the government's delay on the Health and Social Care Bill, announced as conference started. "We're touching their raw nerve," she told the crowd. "We are the ones that are going to take this forward. We are the power – and now we've got the power: use it."

Labour Party does not present itself as any alternative

It was quite noticeable particular among the younger delegates, but also among many of the seasoned union activists that they do not believe that Labour presents any alternative to the ConDem government. This view was further confirmed when John Healey, Shadow Health Minister, addressed the Unison Health Group conference on April 5.

There was vigorous applause from selected delegates for the penetrating questions as to what Labour health policy would be. However, there was no applause for the evasive answers which almost all carried the caveat that the answer depended on what the situation would be in four years’ time and therefore he could not answer the question, or answered in the vaguest manner. This was even greater confirmation, if confirmation were needed, that not only does the Labour Party present no alternative but that they have no plans to even fight back, or any conception that the government may fall at the hands of the workers before its full term.

All the Minister presented was five points to change, but not stop, the Health Bill. He feebly defended the record of New Labour on health, which drew derision at one point from the delegates, when he highlighted the creation of NHS Trusts as a shining achievement of New Labour! He criticised the health bill, not for opening the NHS up to the private sector which he said the Labour Party agreed with, but because it unleashed the “full force” of the market. Of course this is line with their theme all along in Parliament that ConDems can achieve the same aim for the rich with less opposition if only they don't cut “too deep and too fast”. Also quite telling was that Labour's opposition to GP commissioning did not extend to ending the commissioner/provider split, an aberration that the Labour Party had introduced when in government to create a very costly market in health care. Healey admitted that this had already led to the privatisation of 1 in 20 services before the ConDems came to power.

The consciousness that is emerging is that it is the workers that must constitute themselves as the opposition

March 26thThis year’s Unison Health Service Group Conference comes only just over a week after the mass action in London when over 500,000 people took part in the TUC march for the alternative. Delegates were rightly proud that 120,000 Unison members took part in the march and this was reflected in an upbeat and militant mood in the debates at the conference.

In the forefront of this mood was that the trade union movement had at last found its feet again and Dave Prentis once again repeated his call at the conference and in the rally outside the Conference centre that the issue for the workers now was not to stand still but to march on. He also stated that in the future the union would only support politicians that took a stand with the union and that the union would defend its members with all its resources at its disposal. He congratulated the union on playing the leading role in fighting to defend the NHS and said that this was the deciding factor in bringing Ed Miliband and even Norman Tebbit into opposition to the ConDem health bill.

If there is a consciousness emerging from this conference, it is that the working class movement in the form of the trade unions have to play the leading role otherwise the whole society is going to be consumed by the havoc that the pay-the-rich system is wreaking on the public services and the wider economy. The consciousness that is emerging is that it is the workers that must constitute themselves as the opposition.

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Conference Against Academy Schools:

the fight for quality state education

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Saturday 11 June 2011, 10.30am – 3.30pm

Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS

This conference will include key note speakers, breakout groups and dedicated sessions for School Governors. It will be action orientated, the objective being building capacity for local campaigns to fight proposals for Academy Schools.

The evidence from up and down this country and from abroad is that Academy schools, Charter schools and Free schools do not improve attainment overall and increase the segregation and exclusion of the poorest and most disadvantaged children. There is no justification for putting the provision of publicly funded education into the hands of private companies, which would seek to profit from it. The Government’s reform programme is driven by ideology and prejudice, and not by evidence or concern for the wider public.


The Government’s Academies and Free schools programme would:


Despite its rhetoric and threats, the Government lost the first phase of the argument, as very few state schools applied for and were granted Academy status. Now, Conservative local authorities across the SERTUC region are seeking to compel all their schools to apply for Academy status.


So we are now in a fight to save every school!


Parents, students, teachers, support workers, school governors, communities, elected politicians and trade unionists need to work together to highlight the cost to the community and detriment to educational outcomes from Academy Schools and to assure those who runs schools, staff, parents and students that education services provided by the state offer a better option for our young people.


And School Governors, especially those who are trade unionists, have a key role in the mobilisation against applications for Academy status.


This conference is the next step in the crucial campaign against the Government’s Academy Schools reform proposals.

The conference is open to trade unionists, School Governors, teachers, support staff, parents, community campaign groups and elected politicians. It is free to attend. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Places will be given on a ‘first come basis’ so please apply early.

Unfortunately, SERTUC cannot offer childcare but attendees might wish to contact their union for support.

Delegates may register by phone, calling SERTUC on 020 7467 1220

Delegates may register by email, contacting sertucevents@tuc.org.uk



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