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Volume 41 Number 16, May 14, 2011 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

The Defence of the Indefensible – Assassination and State Terrorism

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

The Defence of the Indefensible – Assassination and State Terrorism

May 5 AV referendum and elections:
Results Reflect the Need to Build the Workers' Opposition

A New Health Service: What Kind of Health Service Do We Want?

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The Defence of the Indefensible – Assassination and State Terrorism

Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim holding a
Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim holding a news conference near a damaged building
at Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli, April 25, 2011

On May 3, the Prime Minister made a statement in the House of Commons in which he congratulated and praised the United States government for what has been presented as the successful assassination of Osama bin Laden. Even Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party, expressed gratitude. Although assassination and other acts of state terrorism have long been the favoured policies of the governments of Britain, the US and the other big powers, the government and all the major political parties must be condemned for their support of the policy of assassination which has no justification and is illegal under international law.

There is no doubt that US imperialism went to some lengths to present the execution of bin Laden as an act of “courage and skill”, as David Cameron referred to it, although it subsequently changed its reports of exactly what took place several times and eventually admitted that its victim was completely unarmed. The fact that the US government rapidly disposed of the evidence of its crime, the conflicting reports about bin Laden’s alleged connections with the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and the US and the cumulative effect of the policy of disinformation pursued for many years by the Anglo-American imperialists has continued to create uncertainty even about bin Laden’s death. What is clear is that the aim was to publicly justify the policy of assassination as well as seeking to justify the denial of a basic human right that permits all those who are accused to stand trial, not to mention the right to life. The effect was shamelessly to assert that US imperialism could and would pursue the politics of assassination, come what may.

The government and the major political parties were united in their praise of the state terrorism of US imperialism but although there were some attempts to claim that as a result the world is now a safer place there were even more government statements warning people that it was not. From all the major parties there were demands for even more intervention around the world to “combat terrorism” and to “support democracy” – that is, to use force as a means to settle matters and to interfere in the affairs of sovereign countries. In this connection the Prime Minister went on to champion the need for more crimes against peace and more state terrorism by Britain and its allies in Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.

As several commentators have pointed out, it cannot be coincidental that at the same time that the US government staged the assassination of bin Laden in Pakistan, NATO again attempted to assassinate Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, a crime which led to the deaths of one of his sons and other close members of his family including several young children. For this crime too, the government and the major political parties issued no statement of remorse. In fact, the Prime Minister went so far as to justify the attack, even claiming that it was in keeping with UN resolutions and was designed “to protect civilian life”! Thus one act of state terrorism is used to justify another with the aim that the big powers headed by Anglo-American imperialism, those who claim to be the greatest defenders of the rule of law, should be able to act illegally and with impunity, to carry out any crime on the premise that “might makes right”.

Underlying the crimes of the British and US governments in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere is the Eurocentric and colonialist logic that there can only be one political and economic system in the world, that this system is just and eternal, that the Anglo-Americans and their allies are its greatest defenders and are justified carrying out any heinous act in its defence. On this basis, a British parliament gives itself the right discusses the future and internal affairs of other sovereign countries, while British governments give themselves the right to intervene in these countries militarily and by other means and carry out their criminal activities. What is clear is that in North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere people are attempting to liberate themselves from the diktat of the Anglo-Americans and their allies and to demand that it is the people themselves who must become the decision makers. In Britain too there is an urgent need to end the rule of those who have carried out so many crimes at home and abroad. There is a need to reject with contempt and outrage the chauvinism, criminality and hypocrisy of this rule and these rulers, and fight for and establish an alternative.

Article Index


May 5 AV referendum and elections:

Results Reflect the Need to Build the Workers' Opposition

At Westminster GainThe recent elections and referendum in Britain and Northern Ireland on May 5 were notable, amongst other things, for the historic victory of the Scottish Nationalist Party, the punishing of the Liberal Democrats and the defeat of the Alternative Vote.

It is possibly an oversimplification to paint a single overall picture of the various elections held, with different issues and circumstances. But one thing that was quite clear was the rejection of the Conservative-Liberal coalition.

In the English local elections, the Liberal Democrats did especially badly, losing 9 percentage points in their share of the vote. Though some votes went to the Conservatives, most were taken by the Labour Party. People voted against the coalition, reflected in a sentiment to kick out the Liberal Democrats, the weak point in the government at this time.

Turning to the Alternative Vote referendum, the No campaign certainly played on the unpopularity of the Liberals and leader Nick Clegg. A No vote was presented as a way of punishing the Deputy Prime Minister. This, combined with the all-round lack of enthusiasm for the proposed voting system – the turnout was only 42% – resulted in more than two thirds of vote going No.

The speculation is whether the referendum and elections will weaken the coalition to breaking-point. The question, if so, is what then? Would the resulting Tory minority government continue to rule or call an early election? And what would be the outcome, given the exposure and rejection of the Liberals and the ineffective opposition of Labour?

Such questions can only be settled in favour of the people by the working class movement constituting itself the opposition, on the basis of its own political agenda. Such a Workers' Opposition is what will be able to hold the coalition, minority or whatever government results to account, while bringing its weight to bear on future elections that may not be too long in coming, as well as on the electoral process itself.

The third major result of May 5 was the victory of the SNP in the Scottish parliamentary election.

One aspect of this was undoubtedly the fact that people voted against the Liberal Democrats, who were the main losers in that election. But also Labour and the Conservatives lost out. The Scottish Green Party was only other party to gain any seats.

The Scottish electorate have voted against all three of the big British parties. It was not just an issue of kicking the Liberals out of Scottish politics. The SNP win reflected the desire for an alternative to the entire Westminster cartel.

The fact that the SNP stands for the affirmation of Scotland’s sovereignty cannot be ignored. The media is making much of the fact that the SNP have pledged to hold a referendum on independence. However, the media is somewhat acting to divert from how the issue presents itself. In particular, it appears that they are attempting to set up the SNP for a fall in the event of a defeat on this issue.

The sovereignty of Scotland is part of the alternative for which the working class is fighting. The question is how the working class and people of Scotland are taking up the issue of building the Scottish nation anew; how the Scottish working class is placing itself in the centre of nation-building, giving it its own perspective, acting not in contradiction with but as part of the working class in Britain as a whole.

As part of their nation-building programme, the Scottish working class need also to build their own opposition to the Westminster neo-liberal offensive as part of the Britain-wide Workers' Opposition. Overall, the people of Scotland have shown that they aspire to grasp the opportunity to shape Scottish politics. This is also the desire of the Welsh people as regards the politics of a sovereign Wales. The set-back to Plaid Cymru in the May 5 elections does not contradict this conclusion, but only shows that to be seen to be subordinate to the politics of the anti-social offensive has done the Party of Wales no good.

Article Index


A New Health Service: What Kind of Health Service Do We Want?

Review by Workers' Weekly Health Group of the discussion document by Sally Ruane

March 26thThe discussion paper A New Health Service: What Kind of Health Service Do We Want? is based on an analysis of the ideas and observations of participants in the national Keep Our NHS Public Workshop, held in Leicester in November 2008, entitled “What kind of health service do we want?”. Whilst it was previously circulated amid growing concerns over privatisation and the market system being put in place by the then Labour government, it has recently been recirculated to health workers and professionals following the publication of the Health and Social Care Bill: Liberating the NHS as part of building the fight against this Bill and for the alternative in health.

It is well known that in attacking the health service governments continue to elaborate “core principles”. Of course, such principles that they claim sit alongside that of “free at the point of use”, such as “choice” and “commissioner/provider split”, are in actual fact a negation of the principle of providing universal health care to all at the highest level. These kinds of "principles" have long been opposed as a mechanism that opens up health care to big business of all kinds and destroys the coherence and rationality of a public health care system such as the NHS. Therefore it is very important that health workers oppose these “core principles” that successive governments have been championing with core principles that truly represent the values of all and affirm that health care is a right that society must provide with a guarantee. So the discussion paper points out that the following core principles were established prior to the workshop and no dissent was expressed. The service should be:

Universally available and on the basis of need alone
Publicly owned and publicly provided
Planned, integrated and rational
Democratically accountable
This additional principle emerged from the workshop:
The healthy society should be a key organising principle across all public policies.

The Labour government's reforms created the commissioner/provider split within Primary Care Trusts (PCT). Since then the ConDem coalition government has launched its Health Bill that would transfer this commissioning role from PCTs to GP consortia. Opposing the previous Labour government’s reforms, the document A New Health Service discusses the changes required in order to implement the core principles that health workers demand:

The market in health care and the purchaser provider split should be abolished, along with competition. In its place, an integrated, planned and coordinated service should be established. Health and social care should work in partnership or even be merged.

Serious consideration should be given to the merger of the NHS and social care into a Health and Social Care Service.

The abolition of the market will require a new financial system for channelling funds through the organisation. An examination of the current system in Scotland and the previous system in England (prior to both the market reforms of New Labour and the internal market reforms of the Conservatives – Ed) should be undertaken to see how these systems could be improved in our reformed service.

Then turning its attention to democratic accountability, the discussion paper explores rather than handing the NHS control to “commissioners” and bodies such as “Monitor” – and indeed more and more to the control of the private companies which answer only to their shareholders – what kind of reforms are actually needed:

Democratic accountability is essential and should form one of the fundamental tenets of the service. Democratic accountability should entail both representative and participative approaches and the principle of subsidiarity should apply – that is, decisions should be taken at the level closest to those affected consistent with the principles of good governance. This represents a shift of power to the local level. Broadly, a national regional local structure is envisaged. Elected local boards managing and planning local services should be the principal bodies through which health services are organised and through which they are held to account. These, and institution level boards, should include representatives of the public and representatives of local health service workers.

At the time that the discussion paper was written, the then Labour government had already changed the funding of the NHS from one of the funding of regions and areas based on the population served to one of activity, a tariff payment for each patient treated. The consequences of this, of course, was the complete undermining of the funding of acute and community services, a direction that is being further developed by the present government. It is leading to an acceleration in the closure of beds and services which has the serious consequence that hospitals and community services are finding it increasingly difficult to meet the need for health care. The discussion paper on the other hand starts to take this discussion in the right direction against the funding system that is wrecking the public health care system when it points out:

Funding should be allocated through a needs-based approach, not an activity based approach.

However, when it goes on to talk about “rationing decisions being unavoidable” it misses the chance to develop this very important argument on the needs-based approach. Viewed from this standpoint, the health service and other social programmes must be placed at the centre of an economy which serves the needs of the people who have first claim on the social product as a whole. Taxation represents the government’s claim on this total social product. Not only must the government be held to account over the allocation of this public revenue, but the priority that the claims of the rich have over the social product, including on the taxes appropriated by the government, must be called into question. The people have a right to demand that the wealth that is created by them is utilised for the public good, and that the claims of the rich must not lead to the imposition of budgetary constraints on public services, as is now occurring.

Again the paper points the discussion in a thought provoking direction on some of the important questions. So for example it says:

All health care workers, including professionals, should be salaried employees. There should be a greater emphasis on interventions at the population level rather than at the level of the individual. (This refers to the fact that most GPs and some other health workers are still private contractors – a direction the government wants to take further. It also refers to the increasing lack of initiatives and investment in prophylaxis [preventative medicine] which is undertaken on a population level to reduce the increasing need for individual acute treatment when people become sick.)

Charges should be abolished. (This refers to the fact that the elderly since the 1980s have been forced to pay for their care when they can no longer care for themselves, as it is designated as “social” care rather than “health” care, as well as that dental and prescription charges are levied in England.)

The concept of choice needs to be reclaimed. (This refers the government's use of “choice” when cutting back on publicly provided health care, which is creating shortages and delays and encouraging a market in health which benefits private companies who get paid more for less. With the undermining of public health care, people will end up with little choice other than that provided by health care monopolies that will hold society to ransom.)

An holistic approach (that is, one that recognises that impact of social factors on health) is required both to tackle ill health and to promote more healthy living. This entails a cultural shift which includes a move away from competition and consumerism and towards cooperation and citizenship. (The discussion paper raises a couple of times the crucial point that a healthy society in the economic, political and cultural sphere is fundamental to people’s health and well-being and to preventing illness.)

Non EU citizens should be allowed free health care when in the UK. (This points to the fact that people temporarily living in the UK are now being denied the right to access NHS health care)

In conclusion, the paper makes a contribution in placing the emphasis on the alternative to the direction taken by the last Labour government in health, a direction which has been greatly stepped up by the present coalition government in continuing and deepening the cuts to the health budget and in its continued wrecking of the health care system with its widening of the market system in health care. In particular, the core principles of the discussion paper are a reaffirmation that the right to health care must be given a guarantee by society as the only starting point. While some of the elaborations of the issues it raises are conclusions that are one view, the discussion paper makes a contribution in raising that there is an alternative around which everyone needs to get involved in fighting to safeguard the future of the NHS.

Article Index


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