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Volume 41 Number 28, September 24, 2011 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Cameron at the UN:

The Latest Shameless Version of “Making Britain Great Again”

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

Cameron at the UN:
The Latest Shameless Version of “Making Britain Great Again”

Opposing the Health and Social Care Bill – No Means No! There Is an Alternative!

It Began With a Lie

NATO’s War Fronts

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Cameron at the UN:

The Latest Shameless Version of “Making Britain Great Again”

"Rebels" destroy mural of African leaders outside Sirte
"Rebels" destroy mural of African leaders outside Sirte

This week Prime Minister David Cameron made his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. He used the occasion to applaud the criminal military intervention by NATO in Libya and to call for similar intervention elsewhere to be carried out under the auspices of the UN Security Council. According to the Prime Minister, the so-called “Arab Spring” has provided “a massive opportunity to spread peace, prosperity, democracy and vitally security but only if we really seize it”.

{short description of image} Cameron’s speech is already being compared to the infamous comments made by his predecessor Tony Blair, who in 1999 delivered a speech in Chicago in which he referred to the “doctrine of international community”, the notion of “humanitarian intervention” to be carried out by Anglo-American imperialism and its allies. This doctrine envisioned intervention allegedly to protect endangered civilian populations but in fact based on advancing the interests of the big powers and defending all those values intrinsic to neo-liberal globalisation. The Blair doctrine, as it came to be known, was more than a fabricated justification for military intervention in the Balkans, it became the justification for military and other forms of intervention by the big powers throughout the world, and particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, it gave rise to the assertion by the big powers, and particularly by the governments of the US, Britain and their allies, that the “responsibility to protect” superseded the sovereignty of countries and the provisions of the UN Charter regarding non-interference and non-intervention in the internal affairs of states. It is not in the least surprising that in keeping with the aim of spreading maximum disinformation that Cameron claimed that the illegal intervention in Libya was an illustration of the UN “acting in a way that lives up to the UN’s founding principles”.

Cameron’s speech was indeed a defence of the “doctrine of international community”, of “humanitarian intervention” and the “responsibility to protect”. It was also part of the continuing attempts to hi-jack the so-called “Arab Spring”, to thwart the aspirations of the people of North Africa and the Middle East for their rights, for empowerment and people-centred political and economic systems and instead to divert their heroic struggles into a maintenance of the status quo, presented in a new garb. It must be remembered that the revolutionary events that have swept the region have been directed against the effects of neo-liberation, against the economic and political systems that have been imposed by the IMF/World Bank and the big powers and against the corrupt rulers such as Mubarak, Ben Ali and Saleh, who have been financed and supported by Britain, France and the US. The governments of Britain and its allies have had many years and opportunities to spread peace, prosperity democracy and security in the region, but throughout this and the last century they have done the opposite. The “corrupt and crony capitalism” that Cameron speaks of is entirely a result of such foreign imposition and support; only the peoples’ self-reliant struggles can provide an alternative to it. Even now, while claiming to be the greatest friends of the peoples of the region, Britain and its allies are intent on denying the long-suffering Palestinians the right to their homeland, continuing to support the military regime in Egypt, as well as supporting and continuing to arm the reactionary regimes in Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. At the same time, as was evident in Cameron’s speech, they continue to issue threats against Iran and Syria. Indeed, one aim of this speech was clearly to prepare the conditions for further threats and intervention in these two countries.

Britain bombing Libya In his UN speech, David Cameron was again keen to present recent events in Libya as a model that might be adopted elsewhere and he was critical of those African countries that have been reluctant to endorse a government imposed by external military intervention. But according to Cameron, “the international community has found its voice in Libya”. Turning truth on its head, he asserted that “the Libyans liberated themselves”. It is clear that the aim of this speech is to demand that the combined military might of the most powerful countries in the world, including the covert use of special forces in addition to a massive media campaign of disinformation, should again be employed so that others can allegedly liberate themselves. That is, they must not be allowed to liberate themselves.

Cameron’s advocacy of the Libyan model presages great dangers not only for the people of Africa and the Middle East but throughout the world. Britain and its NATO allies have openly intervened in a civil war, which they assisted in instigating in breech of international law and the UN Charter. Death and destruction have been brought to the Libyan Jamahiriya, a country that was formerly an important independent voice in the world, particularly in Africa, with its own system of direct democracy and an economy in which the country’s massive mineral wealth was used not only for the benefit of its citizens but also for the benefit of others throughout the African continent.

There must be no illusions concerning Cameron’s calls for democracy or alleged support for revolutions. The British government and its allies remain the sworn enemies of all that favours the interests of the peoples of Africa, the Middle East and the rest of the world. The preparations for further intervention and interference under the auspices of the UN must be defeated. This latest version of “making Britain great again” and of its leading role in the “international community” aims to firmly block the progressive trend in history for the respect for sovereignty and independence and for the people to become the decision-makers. The working class and people must organise so that this latest doctrine of big-power Britain with its empire is overturned.

Article Index


Building the Opposition to the Anti-Social Offensive

Opposing the Health and Social Care Bill – No Means No! There Is an Alternative!

London March Agains the Health BillThe third reading of the Health and Social Care Bill on September 7 by the House of Commons after the government’s pause for thought and the mainly cosmetic amendments of the Future Forum process has meant that only its final consideration by the House of Lords remains before it receives the Royal Assent and becomes law.

But this is by no means the end of the matter. Health workers, the workers’ movement as a whole and all those who cherish a health service in which health care is considered as a right are far from being reconciled to the Bill becoming an Act. This situation has now brought to the fore the importance of uniting around a programme of opposition in order to safeguard the future of the NHS, to strengthen the conception that there is an alternative, and to affirm that indeed No Means No! Within this programme, of particular importance is the political mobilisation of the health workers themselves, together with their fight to oppose the attacks on the NHS and on the health workers. Campaigns are continuing both within the community, such as the collection of signatures opposing the wrecking of the health service and its privatisation, and amongst all those who work in and for the NHS by building forums and enabling the conscious participation of the people through all kinds of mechanisms from Trades Councils, to meetings, to discussions in union bodies and other forums.

The fight is continuing, and the conviction consolidated that if the workers’ movement and the movement among the people do not take a stand against the wrecking of the NHS and fight for the alternative based on the right to health care, then the consequences will be very serious for society.

It was in this context that on Thursday, September 8, a meeting took place at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead to oppose the Health and Social Care Bill. The meeting was organised by the local health unions and Keep Our NHS Public. It set out to explain what the new Bill would really mean for the NHS, and discuss what health workers and the public could do to safeguard the future of the NHS and put forward ideas for how they see its future.

About 40 people, many of them health workers but also people from the local community, attended the meeting. Dr Helen Groom, a local GP, opened the meeting, explaining the key features of the Bill. Dr Gerard Reismann, a GP from Newcastle, then spoke in more detail about how the Bill opened the way for the private health monopolies to move into making greater profits from the NHS and how it is the national commissioning board that will really have the power to decide where contracts are awarded.

Maddy Nettleship, Branch Secretary of Unison, then spoke, discussing what the staff had done so far and how this fight needed to be carried forward. Arlo Lapworth from the Hospital Branch of Unite spoke about how the attack on health workers’ terms and conditions were part and parcel of the attack on the health service.

Lively discussion followed on how to take the forward the fight for the future of the NHS, during which there were many practical suggestions put forward for what to do in the hospitals and in the community.

From the contribution of Maddy Nettleship

This meeting is a culmination of continuous opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill and the resulting push towards the further introduction of privatisation and competition within the NHS which, if allowed to go ahead, will result in its destruction of the NHS and its replacement by a US model of health care.

The meeting comes as a result of many groups working together – Keep Our NHS Public , Northern Public Service Alliance, unions at the hospital - Unison, Unite, and Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP). And although the Bill had its third reading in the Commons yesterday, this is not the end of the struggle to safeguard the future of the NHS.

The key thing we have to keep in mind is that despite the massive media hype and propaganda to the contrary England can well afford to fund a modern health care system that can deliver healthcare to all of its citizens to the highest degree available.

At the QEH we have taken numerous actions to oppose the Bill and prior to that to oppose all the mechanisms that have been used by successive governments to open up the NHS to big business of all kinds. One of our slogans during this has been is that there is an alternative: stop paying the rich, invest in health and education! That is, the economy should be geared to ensuring the rights of everybody including the right to healthcare. It is clear that the economy is being increasingly geared to guaranteeing the wealth of the few at the expense of the rights of all as exemplified by the increasing gap between rich and poor.

The actions of health workers and the public forced the government to pretend to listen and halt the Bill. Now we have to carry this fight on. We have to remember that it us that represent the majority of people both health workers and users of the NHS.

We have to put forward what we want the health service to be .That it should be universally available on the basis of need alone, publicly owned and publicly provided, planned, integrated, and democratically accountable. All the changes in the NHS have moved away from these principles and the Bill finally takes accountability for health care away from government.

Funding should be allocated on a needs-based approach not an activity-based approach. All health workers here have felt the affects on their ability to provide care to a high standard of the activity approach. The tariff approach that was introduced by the last government has resulted in an increase in admin costs from 4% to nearer 20% and this is ever growing, with the spirit of co-operation between health workers now teetering on the brink.

We need to claim back the concept of choice. The government’s use of choice has resulted in cutbacks and shortages, opening up the market in health care which benefits private companies being paid more for less. This will result in ordinary working people having little choice other than the big private health monopolies and will often result in people not having the choice they want in their local area.

We have seen the success of numerous local campaigns to stop closures and we should take heart from the struggle of people in other countries such as Greece who have successfully opposed austerity measures.

The presentation by many bodies such as the Kings Fund, that closures are inevitable and low priority procedures should be cancelled and may be withdrawn, epitomises the incoherence of the purchaser provider split, the market model for the NHS.

That the government uses budgetary constrains as a pretext for draconian cuts is ludicrous and obscene when the government spends billions daily on wars of aggression. And although we know we represent the views of the vast majority we are left wondering how we can continue to take a stand against this juggernaut in which not only are our jobs, conditions and pensions being threatened but the healthcare needs of our patients are being sacrificed under the turning wheels of this market model and the drive towards privatisation.

It is important to correlate what is happening locally with the national picture to make sense of the situation and develop an effective opposition. What is needed is a different direction for the NHS. It is not just the tweaking of Lansley's Bill that is needed but putting a stop to it and fighting for the alternative – a health service firmly based on the claims of the people for the highest possible quality of health care, and based on the needs of the people not the needs of the big health monopolies.

The “March for the Alternative” on March 26, the Keep Our NHS Public march of May 17 to the Department of Health, the candlelight vigil outside Parliament on Tuesday, the actions we have had outside the QEH and throughout Gateshead as part of the hundreds of actions throughout the country to oppose the Bill, all show the sentiment of the people. We must continue to build a broad and effective opposition to envision that there is an alternative and to fight for it. The alternative is an NHS based on the principle that health care is a right, that it is a public service not a service for profit for the health insurers and monopolies.

Our workplace, our hospitals, our NHS! There is an alternative!

Article Index


Anti-War Movement

It Began With a Lie

Jim Brann, Secretary London CND

PeaceLine, the Newsletter of London Region CND, Aug/Sep 2011

CND Brixton StallOn 6 August 1945 United States President Harry S. Truman announced “sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base…” Before the sentence was out, the lie was out. The target of this first use of a nuclear weapon had been the city and its population, not an “army base”. 70,000 civilians were killed instantly and perhaps 50,000 more died in the following months. Three days later the US dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing 40,000 immediately and dooming 40,000 more.

Ever since then the world has been plagued with the nuclear threat – and with the “bodyguard of lies” which comes with it.

The world was told that this destruction of two cities had been necessary to end the war. That remains the official story. But almost all U.S. military commanders at the time denied it. Admiral Leahy, who acted as head of the U.S. armed forces, said “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender”. General Eisenhower, supreme commander of allied forces in Europe and later to be President, said “to use the atomic bomb, to kill and terrorize civilians, without even attempting [negotiations], was a double crime”.

One thing was clear: a newly-dominant United States had shown its willingness to use its nuclear monopoly to maximum deadly effect.

Prime Minister Attlee said that a British bomb was “essential”. A secret Cabinet committee was set up. The US cut off nuclear collaboration with Britain. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Trade secretary said they doubted that Britain could afford it. Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin fumed that, to keep Britain’s status “we’ve got to have this thing over here, whatever it costs. We’ve got to have the bloody Union Jack on top of it”. An even more secret cabinet subcommittee was set up to develop the bomb, with the “doubters” kept off it.

Churchill said the bomb was “the price we pay to sit at the top table”. By then the Soviet Union had developed its own bomb. So the public was told that the British bomb was to “deter the Soviet Union” rather than to preserve Britain’s status.

Forty-three years ago Britain agreed to get rid of its nuclear weapons in return for other countries not getting their own. Eleven years ago Britain gave “an unequivocal undertaking to encompass the total elimination of [its] nuclear arsenal”.

But while the British government warns about the danger of other countries getting nuclear weapons, it is busy with its modernisation programme. New nuclear missile-carrying submarines will have a lifetime cost of around £80 billion and would still be usable 90 years after Britain agreed to get rid of its bomb. And billions are being spent on modernising the nuclear weapons plant at Aldermaston, enabling development of a new generation of nuclear warheads. The warheads and submarines will fit missiles to be rented from the U.S., although each may have a “bloody Union Jack on top of it”.

The latest lies are that Britain is not bound by its treaty obligations and that no “final” decision has been taken. But clearly the public mood is much more sceptical. We have to harness that.

Article Index


NATO’s War Fronts

Jim Brann, Secretary London CND

PeaceLine, the Newsletter of London Region CND, Aug/Sep 2011

Twenty years ago the Soviet Union broke up. The Cold War was over. NATO had “won”, leaving it as the world’s only military power bloc.

South London wall slogan NATO’s founding treaty says that it exists to defend its members’ territory. The “threat” was gone but NATO started expanding its membership to the east, into the former Soviet Union, and its operations into Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Not having fired a shot in forty years, NATO has been involved in four wars since then.

The European Union changes its treaties when it alters course. This involves public discussion, votes and referendums. NATO never bothers with such “niceties”, however illegal that makes it.

The NATO bloc includes a small minority of the world’s states but most of its military spending. Much is in the hands of the US, with a large chunk of the rest in the hands of Britain and France. NATO’s “trump card” is its high-technology weaponry.

Eight years ago NATO took over most of the foreign military presence in Afghanistan. This has expanded from 15,000 troops to 150,000, yet the situation goes from bad to worse.

Using a secretive programme known as “kill/capture”, NATO forces claim to have killed or captured 12,000 opposition fighters in the past year. The programme relies on “night raids” to drive “an almost industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine”. NATO also uses extensive air raids.

The result is that “the increasing use of air strikes as well as night raids… is destroying homes, crops and basic infrastructure, traumatising civilians and displacing tens of thousands of people”. More than 250,000 Afghans have fled their villages in the past two years. In 2011 more than twice as many have fled compared with the same period last year.

In June Obama announced that the number of US troops in Afghanistan would be cut back. But NATO will not draw the conclusion that it has no business in Afghanistan and is not the “solution” to anything.

In January the revolts of the “Arab Spring” broke out, with the western-backed leaders of Tunisia and Egypt being overthrown. In February a rebellion broke out in eastern Libya, with the rebels declaring that they wanted no foreign intervention.

In March, declaring that the object was “protecting the Libyan people”, the US started bombing Libyan government forces. Obama said that the bombing would be a matter of “days, not weeks”.

NATO took over the bombing. Obama was joined by the French and British leaders in declaring that the object was the overthrow of the Libyan government.

Despite overwhelming NATO dominance in the air, by sea, in space and of information, after 5 months of NATO bombing the Libyan government controls 20% more territory than it did 6 months ago. And the civilian death toll mounts daily despite NATO’s claim to be “protecting the Libyan people”.

The intervention that was meant to rescue NATO’s reputation and intervene in the “Arab spring” is stuck in the sands of Libya. Clearly NATO is not the solution to anything.

Article Index


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