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Volume 41 Number 30, October 22, 2011 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

No to the Politics of Assassination!

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

No to the Politics of Assassination!

On the Fight that is Developing on Pensions

Fifty Fewer MPs – Proposed Boundaries Drawn

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No to the Politics of Assassination!

Hands Off Libya!When Iraq was invaded, the people’s watchword was that Occupation is not Liberation; with the killing of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, it could be declared that Assassination is not Liberation either.

It almost beggars belief that Anglo-US imperialism should be so shameless in its gloating that it has apparently got away with this breathtaking crime against the Libyan people and against progressive world opinion. Whatever the facts of the case, it is the outcome of the assertion in practice of Britain and the NATO powers that they have the right to decide who should govern Libya. This is their official policy.

These powers put forward their notorious doctrine of the “responsibility to protect” to fool the gullible, and set out to create the maximum confusion in promoting debates about whether Gaddafi’s regime was dictatorial or progressive. They covered over the issue of the right of a sovereign country to decide its own destiny, creating and inspiring a “revolution” of those it could back to topple Gaddafi, and then promoting these forces as the “legitimate” representatives of the Libyan people. Most heinous of all, this “liberation” consisted of massive NATO destruction of Libyadestruction by NATO armed might of one of the most advanced and prosperous countries of Africa with untold loss of life and tens of thousands of armed “missions” to rain down death and destruction.

It is sickening and abhorrent how the alleged death of Colonel Gaddafi has been used to further the triumphalism of Cameron, Obama and Clinton, and other big power leaders, that a new page has opened for the Libyan people. This new page is one where these same neo-liberal and imperialist forces are establishing anew colonialism in Africa, West Asia and elsewhere, and equating this with the bringing of democracy. It is really outrageous that the same neo-liberal values which have brought and are still bringing such crisis to the countries of Europe, of North America and elsewhere are being imposed everywhere the imperialists can possibly do so by any means necessary. Chaos and destruction have also been what these values have brought to Afghanistan and Iraq, and this is what will be brought to Libya also.

British Firms Urged to pack their suitcases! The responsibility of all progressive forces is to utterly condemn this armed aggression without hesitation, and to vigorously support the principle that it is the right of all peoples to exercise their sovereignty, to decide their own path without outside interference. They must also go all out to ensure the principle is upheld that conflicts of interests internationally must be sorted out without the use of force of any sort.

The working class and people must grasp that it is Anglo-US imperialism which is violating international law and committing aggression, intervention and exercising its dictate with impunity. Therefore it is up to the people’s movement against war and the workers’ opposition to the rule of the rich and powerful to get further organised so that they become the force to establish the new rule of international law, bring their own war criminals to justice and to establish the domestic power so that society is organised along lines that respects people’s sovereignty as individuals, collectives and nations. This and only this is what is required to safeguard peace, democracy, security and the actual rule of law.

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Building the Opposition to the Anti-Social Offensive

On the Fight that is Developing on Pensions

Pesnion HubFollowing the decision of the public service trade unions at last months TUC Congress, meetings are taking place in public services all over the country on the ballot to take a stand against the government's attack on pensions in a day of action and generalised strikes on November 30. Unison is balloting 1.1 million public sector members, the largest ballot in its history. Unite is balloting 250,000 public sector members as well as may other unions from all of the public sectors affected in local government, the civil service, the NHS and education.

Conscious of the massive misinformation campaign of the government and mass media that public sector pensions are “not affordable” trade unions and their activists have issued leaflets and documents and are holding workplace meetings exposing the myths and lies in the run up to the ballots which are taking place in October. Unison was also forced to threaten a legal challenge to get the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to withdraw a statement it issued to coincide with the Unison ballot claiming that nurses who voted in favour of strike action could be breaching their code of conduct. Information countering this illegal statement of the NMC had to be speedily circulated to angry nurse members.

Vote YesIn the discussions at meetings that have been taking place in the NHS, there is of course a reluctance for strike action from health workers where it might affect patients. Health workers have always ensured a minimum effect on their patients in conducting strikes and other forms of action. In addition, many are concerned about loss of income should the dispute drag on. However, the overwhelming feeling amongst health workers in these discussions is that a stand must be taken against the attack on pensions and to engage the whole of society in exposing the lies about the pensions of public service workers, that they are “not affordable”, or “gold plated” and that to defend them is not only in the interest of public sector workers but the whole of society.

Firstly, there is the big lie that they are “not affordable”. Both the NHS and local government schemes are not only sustainable and affordable but actually produce vast surpluses that are used by government to pay its deficit to the financiers. They are cash-rich with income far exceeding outgoings – £2bn a year in the case of the NHS scheme is paid in contributions over and above outgoings. The NHS scheme is a scheme that pays directly into the Treasury and they will realise £10bn over the next five years from the NHS pension scheme in its present state. The local government scheme has funds worth £140bn – making it one of the biggest institutional investors in the world, equivalent to 12% of UK GDP. It has enough money to pay all its liabilities for the next 20 years without raising a single penny.

GUCU ProtestPublic sector pensions are not “gold-plated”. In local government, the average pension is £4,000 pa – dropping to just £2,800 for women – less than £60 a week. And for the NHS where the vast majority of health workers and professionals are women it is a lowly £3,500 for women, placing the income of these pensioners well below the poverty line. The government is trying to impose an increase in contributions that would mean that many people will pay more and work longer to get a pension that will be worth less. The increase in their contributions would be up to a 50%, and there would be a lessening of their entitlements by increasing the pension age and lessening the amount of the pension. The government also peddles the myth that the low paid will not suffer. But a hospital porter, for example, will pay 34% more for the NHS pension and even taken with the state pension would find themselves well below the poverty line.

Therefore, this attack on the right to pensions is not because the pension schemes are unaffordable, or even because people are living longer – it is to pay the deficit caused by the government’s paying the failing banking system. In other words, it is yet another scam to raid the pensions of public service workers to pay the rich in the huge crisis that their system of paying themselves huge profits has caused.

The government says that public sector pensions are “unfair” to private sector pensions that have already been cut back, with literally millions of workers having no occupational pensions at all. Firstly, this says more about the rapacious private sector pension market than it does about anything else. It shows that these private pension plans are even more lucrative to the financial sector and they want to attract new customers from public services by forcing the government to bring down the public sector pensions. Secondly, attacking public sector pensions will not assist pensions for workers in the private sector one bit. On the contrary, the defence of public sector pensions is part of defending the pensions of all in society.

In a modern socialised economy, the social product in useful manufacturing and useful services of human labour are not a cost but are the source of all added value. It is the people who live and work in producing that social product that have the claim for a dignified standard of living for all citizens from birth to death. Rather than representing society in making this claim on the social product for all its citizens, the government is shunning its responsibility and giving priority to the claim of the financial elite instead. For example, the Coalition government immediately it came to office changed the uprating of pensions from the annual CPI inflation to the RPI inflation, cutting billions off the public sector pensions without any mandate to do so. It is now systematically forcing workers to work longer and robbing their pension funds to pay the rich in society.

{short description of image}The alternative that we need to fight for in defending our pensions against further attack is that pensions should be a universal social programme run by the state and funded by the socialised economy to meet the needs of all in retirement. Far from the retirement age being increased, it should be reduced. Pensions are a right, based in the reality that all are born to society and remain members of society until they pass away. It is in the interests of individuals and the general interests of society as a whole that pensions are defended and developed further, so that the national state pension becomes the main source of income in retirement, capable of meeting the material and cultural needs of all citizens.

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Commentary

Fifty Fewer MPs – Proposed Boundaries Drawn

Electoral constituencies are currently being redrawn according to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, passed early this year, which significantly reduces the number of electoral constituencies by 50 to 600. This will result in the largest fall by far in parliamentary seats both in relative and absolute terms in the post-war period.

Indeed, the only decrease so far in this period occurred in 2005; every other election after the Second World War until the last has seen either an increase or a hold in the number of seats. The general trend until the past decade has been for the number of MPs to increase.


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Why the turnaround? In May 2009, a year before the last election, David Cameron, gave his reasons in a speech for wanting to reduce the number of constituencies:

“Today, we’ve got far too many MPs in Westminster. More people sit in the House of Commons than in any other comparable elected chamber in the world. This is neither cost-effective nor politically effective: just more people finding more interfering ways to spend more of your money. I think we can do a better job with fewer MPs: we can, to coin a phrase, deliver more for less.”

A year later, the Liberal Democrat manifesto also stated their desire to “reduce the number of MPs by 150”, to an unprecedented 500.

The stated reasons for this constitutional change amount to saving money and “effectiveness”. To raise the argument that democracy is inefficient and expensive, on the back of scandals such as that over MPs expenses, and that the British electorate is somehow over-represented, is a dangerous path down which to go.

The context is the decay setting into the cartel-like system of disconnected, élite, parliamentary parties that do not even represent their dwindling memberships, let alone the population as a whole. This decay has become particularly acute over the past decade with the unleashing of war and financial meltdown, and the consolidation of the Westminster cartel into a pro-war, anti-social bloc that is plain for all to see.

In this condition of decay of the Westminster system, concentration of power has been increasing the hands of the executive. The argument over “political effectiveness” is one of further lessening role of legislature.

Alongside this is the fierce contention between these cartel-parties for power, and the pragmatic disregard for theory or principles in pursuit of that aim. Hence the valid criticism that the Conservatives, in particular, are using their “reform” as an excuse to gerrymander their way to a larger share of the seats.

The issue of concentration of power also shows itself in relation to the political representation of the nations and regions. As many have pointed out, the proportion of seats held by Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will decrease while that of England will increase. Also within England itself, representation will shift, albeit marginally, towards the South.

From the perspective of the people, the issue is how to remove the blocks that keep the electorate away from governance. It is in their interests to oppose moves to concentrate power in the hands of the executive: on the contrary, the executive should be subordinate to the legislature.

It should also be noted that, although the general trend in the post-war period has been a rise in the number of MPs, the population has been increasing, so that in actuality, the ratio of MPs to the size of the electorate has been falling since 1951.


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To shrink parliament reinforces this trend of declining representation. It cannot be accepted that this be continued in the name of “efficiency” or “effectiveness” as defined by the ruling élite. The effectiveness of decision-making is measured by how much the people can participate in the process and the quality of their participation. The people of Britain are certainly not over-represented. Reducing the number of MPs is a regressive step; instead, the proportion of people able to directly participate in governance should grow as society advances.


Also see: Constituency boundaries: the sixth general reviewPublished 18 October 2011 | Commons Library Standard note SN05929. This note gives details of the sixth general review of Parliamentary constituencies.

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