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Volume 41 Number 17, May 21, 2011 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Parliament Supports Military Aggression and Intervention

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

Parliament Supports Military Aggression and Intervention

The Need for an Anti-War Government

Defend the NHS! For an Alternative Based on the Right to Health Care!

Queen of England's Visit to Ireland:
Actions Speak Louder Than Words

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Parliament Supports Military Aggression and Intervention

On May 16, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, opened a major debate which took place in the in the House of Commons on North Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Foreign Secretary’s remarks were intended to be a further justification for military aggression and other forms of interference and intervention in several countries in Africa and Asia. His speech was full of the logic of the British imperialists of former centuries, who gave themselves the right to maraud around the world protecting vital “interests”, imposing the “Pax Britannica” and shouldering the so-called white man’s burden. Such is the reactionary nature of the major political parties and the House of Commons that there not one MP questioned the legitimacy of such a debate, which was based on the premise that Britain has the right to pontificate about and interfere in the affairs of other sovereign countries and even to invade them, according to the economic, strategic and other interests of the major monopolies and financial institutions.

The Foreign Secretary’s opening remarks were a further justification of the criminal NATO-led war against the Libyan people, which has now seen more than 3,000 “strikes” and been intensified in recent weeks so as to smash the entire infrastructure of the country built by and for the people of Libya. It was evident that some MPs were uncertain how this form of aggression, as well as recent attempts at assassination and the intervention of the International Criminal Court, which are clearly all designed to produce regime change, could be considered to be concerned with protecting civilians and within the mandate of UNSC Resolution 1973. However, as the Foreign Secretary’s officials had drafted the UN resolution he assured the House of Commons that it permitted NATO to act as it saw fit. The logic of the government remains the same – it will continue to encourage, finance and support the armed opposition to the government of Libya. If that government attempts to resist this NATO-supported rebellion it will be bombed into submission. Although the absurdity and warmongering nature of this logic was clearly evident to some MPs, and even though such acts are illegal under international law, there was no parliamentary opposition to it.

The Foreign Secretary also reiterated the government’s view that the NATO-supported rebellion in Libya is similar to the popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the region. However, even in Tunisia and Egypt the government is interfering in the media, in the election process and in the economy and through its “Arab Partnership Initiative”, attempting to make sure that any political and economic changes are in line with its “universal values” and firmly based on the neo-liberal model. Here too can be seen every manifestation of colonialist arrogance and eurocentrism and it becomes Britain’s “civilising mission” to ensure that its form of representative democracy is universally accepted and adopted. The people of North Africa rose up against the political and economic diktat of the Anglo-Americans which was enforced by the reactionary regimes of Mubarak and Ben Ali; now the British government and its allies are trying to re-impose them and even speaking of incorporating the whole region as an appendage of the EU.

Elsewhere in the region, the government continues to act not out of any principle in regard to the rights of nations nor of non-interference but rather as suits its geo-political interest. It continues its sabre-rattling against Iran and is increasing the pressure and sanctions on the government of Syria, for example, while acting in a much more conciliatory way towards Bahrain and Yemen. It continues to attempt to dictate the future of the Palestinian people while ignoring their right to self-determination and accepting or supporting the illegal and aggressive actions of Zionist Israel. Moreover, with over 10,000 troops deployed it continues, along with its allies, the occupation of Afghanistan, and infringes the sovereignty of Pakistan as if that country were still a British colony.

In concluding his remarks about North Africa and Western Asia, the Foreign Secretary expressed the view that there was cause for optimism regarding “the potential for greater economic and political freedom in a part of the world that has known little of either”. Hague cannot have had in mind that there has been little “freedom” in the past two centuries when British imperialism imposed its colonial rule throughout much of this region, nor in more recent times when British governments have propped up dictators and reactionary regimes and invaded Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan not in order to support the aspirations of the people but in order to suppress them. The current policy of the government is to continue and in many ways step up the armed intervention around the world, while the Labour Party’s role is to support, encourage it, and demand more ideological justifications along the lines of “humanitarian intervention”.

This is an example of the “representative”, “multi-party”, democracy that the government is attempting to impose in North Africa and other parts of the world, where the majority of people are denied decision-making powers, the legislature is the hands of the big parties representing the interest of the rich and the government can act and even invade other countries with impunity. The times cry out to end such a state of affairs, for the need to develop the alternative, so that the people can become the decision makers and establish an anti-war government that serves their interests.

Article Index



The Need for an Anti-War Government

The Need for An Anti-War Government

Both the Defence Minister Dr Liam Fox and Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards have recently called, without irony or shame, for an increase to the intensity of the bombardment of Libya. As if the inhuman crimes of the past two months are not enough, the past week alone has seen further aerial assaults on buildings and infrastructure in Tripoli; and the coded insinuations for the killing of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi have now become outright calls for his assassination – surely a crime in international law.

NATO spokesperson’s obscene and fascist declarations of over 2,500 "strike sorties" – those where bombs are dropped – against Libya since attacks began in March match the recent comments and statements of Fox and Richards, which reflect a lowering of the level of human discourse.

It doesn’t have to be like this. To echo the powerfully articulated message given on March 26 by hundreds of thousands of workers rejecting the government’s anti-social offensive and decimation of public services: “There is an Alternative”. With Britain acting as one of the headquarters of backwardness in the world and a main source of ideological justifications for war and aggression, the alternative is an anti-war government created by the people of Britain. Only an Anti-War Government can prevent the crimes against peace committed by the British imperialists.

Since the start of the war against Afghanistan in 2001 and continuing to this day a powerful anti-war movement has developed in the country. In groups small and large nationwide people from all walks of life and many different political persuasions and beliefs come together to discuss ways in which the injustice of perpetual war and aggression can be opposed.

It is true to say then that the anti-war movement is consolidated and well established. It is even said to reflect a majority opinion wilfully ignored in the political structures and forums of the government, and marginalised in the mainstream media. It must stay united against British crimes of aggression. There is therefore a democratic deficit revealed in the vote on March 21, 2011, in favour of the aggression against Libya supported by all but 13 of 577 Members of Parliament.

With Britain's political establishment represented by its cartel style government of Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem coalition, an anti-war government is not a policy objective to be subordinated to endless debates and point scoring in the Houses of Parliament or arguments about this aggressive campaign or another. Instead it should be seen as a proactive political initiative which transforms the tone and pace of an agenda set by the warmongers to one set by the people themselves.

Democratic renewal and political empowerment are important aspects of the struggle for political change in Britain; establishing an anti-war government is a parallel endeavour to crown the anti-war movement with success.

Such a government would not only outlaw all ongoing acts of aggression and war, preventing the countless deaths and the wilful and cruel destruction of a country’s heritage and infrastructure – it would also be a progressive initiative to the search for global peace and an important contribution from the people of Britain to all those defending their rights worldwide.

One characteristic of the last decade is that media manipulation and news management reduces literally life and death issues to banal point-scoring exercises and internecine debates – which follow a definite trajectory of managed intensity reaching a crescendo before the tempo is decreased and the given War and war in general becomes a normal aspect of daily life – which serve to destabilise the movement in opposition to war and aggression and imperialism and reinforce and perpetuate British chauvinism and political confusion. The call for an Anti-War Government and its consolidation can focus the energy and spirit of the anti-war movement towards establishing a government that opposes war and refuses to participate in wars of aggression, upholds the principle of the sovereignty and independence of all states and nations, withdraws from warmongering alliances such as NATO and defends and adheres to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries and absolutely rejects the use of force in settling political disputes within and between nations, states and countries. Such disputes and problems – many of which have their roots in Britain's colonial history and non-stop imperialist ambition for spheres of influence and sources of raw materials and profits – are customarily used as the pretext for the British government to participate as a junior partner of the United States to launch aggression against other countries in flagrant violation of international law.

With an anti-war government established by the insurgent people of Britain, one of the most important concerns of our time can be addressed. The need for peace, an end to the dangerous militarisation of the British economy – through the proliferation of weapons of war and aggression – and an end to the domination of the country's economic life by arms manufactures and merchants of death who profit handsomely from global armed conflicts – which they incite and perpetuate. In its place, a government which defends peace and progress enshrined in principles such as respect for equality between all nations big or small, rich or poor, defence of sovereignty and independence and adhering to international law.

Article Index


Building the Opposition to the Anti-Social Offensive

Defend the NHS! For an Alternative Based on the Right to Health Care!

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March to save the NHS, May 17, University College Hospital to Department of Health, Whitehall

It is an urgent necessity for health workers to intensify their struggle, as they are doing, in defence of the health service and to stop its privatisation.

Concrete examples such as that of University College London in Euston show the urgency of the situation. UCLH, which is one of the country’s leading hospitals, announced that it is to cut 360 posts, which could include “frontline” health workers. This is presented as an inevitability because the funding for treating NHS patients, which at present comes from the Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), is being cut. What are termed “low-priority procedures”, such as tonsillectomies and varicose vein surgery, would no longer be provided free at UCLH. The PCTs are cutting the funding because it is said that they intend to treat more patients in the community. It can be seen that the two parts of the argument do not marry up. To justify the loss of health care jobs and the departure from NHS principles, the Chief Executive of UCLH, Sir Robert Naylor, said: “If we have fewer contracts from the primary care trust to treat patients, and we do less work, then we must have fewer staff. Any business runs like that. We flex our staff numbers up and down all the time.”

This epitomises the incoherence of the purchaser/provider split, the “market model”, for the NHS. The health care staff are left wondering how they can take a stand against this juggernaut in which not only their jobs but also the healthcare needs of patients are sacrificed under the inevitably turning wheels of this market model and the drive to privatisation.

It becomes necessary to correlate what is happening in local hospitals with the national picture to make sense of the situation and to develop an effective opposition to the cuts and the attacks on the right to health care.

For example, the government is demanding £20 billion in what are being termed “efficiency savings” over the next four years. The government’s “efficiency savings”, of course, are the public’s “cuts”. This is what society experiences in the name of “efficiency”. It translates into the cutting of tens of thousands of NHS posts. For example, the London Ambulance Service alone is axing 890 positions – the majority of these being “frontline”, not administrative or office jobs. In addition, St George's Hospital and Kingston Hospital are both axing around 500 posts, including those of doctors and nurses. How can this go under the name of “efficiency savings”!

As if this situation were not bad enough, the Lansley “Health and Social Care Bill” is designed to throw a further grenade into this carnage by pressing ahead with the aim of removing the government’s responsibility to even budget for health care. Its long-term aim has been to ensure that the “market model” is everted into a competitive capital-oriented market in health services. In this scenario, with every NHS hospital a Foundation Trust, and the private sector setting up competing services, the issue is being made of scrambling for the opportunity to make the maximum profit by selling health care, with the new consortia of GPs made the patsies for commissioning this health care. Under this scenario, “efficiency savings”, “productivity” and the like are really the king, and quality of health care, serving the needs of the people, meeting the claims of all for a health service free at the point of delivery, are subordinate to the motive of the private sector in the health market to enrich the owners of capital. In fact, “free at the point of delivery” is even being used as a mantra to justify the consolidation of the market in health care. This is the New Jerusalem of the Tory-led Coalition.

The local and national aim of health workers and professionals and all concerned people in these circumstances is not the tweaking of the Lansley Bill after the pause for thought, but putting a stop to it and fighting for the alternative, a health service based firmly on the claims of the people for the highest possibly quality of health care as a public service, based on the needs of the people not on the demands of rich whose aim is to get even richer.

Who Decides?

Who decides how the health service should be run and what is its motive force should be? This is the crucial question. Should it be run on behalf of the people or on behalf of the monopolies? The government must be held to account on this.

The bringing of the private sector into the running of the health service should be outlawed. It is natural that the government should have a budget for health care, but the setting of budget constraints as a pretext for making draconian cuts in health care and reorganising to increase “productivity” and make “efficiency savings” is ludicrous and obscene. When the government finds it necessary to increase the budget for military spending and for wars of aggression it does so without qualms. It even appropriates other sovereign countries’ funds for its own purposes.

Under the Lansley Bill, by April 2014 all hospitals must have Foundation Trust status, with the power to set their own terms and conditions, and to compete for business. PCTs are to be abolished by April 2013 to be replaced by GP consortia, and Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) abolished by July 2012 (delayed by three months after the pause for thought). “Productivity” is to be increased by 4% a year for five years.

For a Different Direction for the NHS

It hardly needs emphasising that this is entirely the wrong direction in which to take the NHS. A change of direction is required to place co-operation between all hospitals in the health service in the first place so that the highest quality health care is available to all, as opposed to setting up a mix of “providers” in competition with one another. It is on the face of it absurd that competition is being placed in the first place. But the method in the madness, as far as the government is concerned, is that under the Lansley Bill, the GP consortia as commissioners are on the face of it decision-makers, but are set to bring in such corporations as KPMG (motto: “cutting through complexity” – read that as you will) to make the decisions, committed to “supporting the NHS as it rises to the challenge of reducing costs”. Ernst & Young is another company with a “health advisory team”. Who are these profit-making concerns accountable to? Certainly not to the public. Rather than decisions being made behind closed doors, the fight must be for those who make the decisions to be accountable to society, so that it can be affirmed: Whose NHS? Our NHS! Who Decides? We Decide!

The NHS must not be broken up piecemeal in the interests of private gain under the pretext of “choice” or any other pretext. Rather than the “commissioning/providing” split being augmented and spread like a cancer through all the organs of the NHS, it must be eradicated. It is foreign to the conception of a modern health service. It is in the service of paying the rich. It is premised on people “consuming” health care, or rather the consortia buying health care and deciding on the basis of cheapness, i.e. whether it is in line with their budgets that have been imposed on them, what should be available to those in need.

What is needed is a different direction for the NHS. It must not go in the direction of coming under the dictate of the monopolies and their pay-the-rich schemes. It must not go in the direction of being subject to EU laws on private providers either. All the hype and disinformation about spiralling costs, the need for efficiency and productivity, budgetary constraints, that people are responsible for their own ill health and must pay, and all the other bankrupt pretexts which are trotted out – all this must be rejected with contempt.

Build the Opposition, Defeat the Bill

A broad and effective opposition is required to stop the Lansley Bill. The sentiment of all health workers and throughout the working class movement to develop this opposition has been very clearly seen not only in the March for the Alternative of March 26, but in such demonstrations as the “Keep Our NHS Public” march on May 17 to the Department of Health and many other actions. The BMA itself is also taking a stand against the Bill. Working people demand the maximum political opposition to this direction for the health service, and the fight to prevent the Lansley Bill is an essential step and an integral part of this opposition.

WWIE calls on the working class and people to envision that there is an alternative and to fight for it. This alternative is a national health service based on the principle that health care is a right, that it must be a public health service, not-for-profit.

Defeat the Health and Social Care Bill!
Keep Our NHS Public!
Stop Paying the Rich! Increase Investments in Social Programmes!
Health Care Is a Right!
Fight for the Alternative!

Article Index


Queen of England's Visit to Ireland

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

It is all very well for the Queen in Dublin to make tacit acknowledgement of Britain's past atrocities against the Irish people and to pay respects to the Irish patriots who gave their lives in the fight for freedom from British rule. But her words ring quite disgustingly hollow at a time when the government of which she is the titular head pursues a policy of armed aggression against sovereign peoples and countries, of assassination and plunder, every bit as barbaric as the worst excesses of its colonial past.

As Sinn Fein have rightly pointed out, the visit was premature and particularly offensive given that it occurred on the very anniversary of the 1974 Dublin/Monaghan bombings which claimed the lives of 33 Irish civilians and bore all the hallmarks of Britain's undercover agencies. That it was premature, and pushed through for reasons other than celebrating relations between two peoples so closely intertwined over centuries, not least in the struggle against a common enemy, was brought home by the bizarre spectacle of the Queen's entourage passing through completely empty streets lined only with police.

Certainly, any development of good neighbourly relations between the two countries is to be welcomed. But full free and equal relations between sovereign countries are clearly still a long way off when one continues to occupy an essential part of the other. If Britain does acknowledge the right of the "people of the island of Ireland" to decide their own future, as former Prime Minister John Major did now more than a decade ago, why does not the British government carry this declaration to its logical conclusion and withdraw all claims to the six counties of Ulster ?

The British working class and all progressive people cannot and will not be "reconciled", a word much bandied around during the visit, to anything less than full free and equal relations, following the reunification of Ireland by its own people, between sovereign states of the four nations of our islands.

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