Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 46 Number 11, April 23, 2016 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

No to EU Austerity! Working People
Themselves Must Set the Agenda

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

No to EU Austerity! Working People Themselves Must Set the Agenda

For An Anti-War Government!:
The Anglo-Americans and their Allies Must Cease All Interference in Libya

Building Resistance against Austerity:
March for Health, Homes, Jobs and Education

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No to EU Austerity! Working People Themselves Must Set the Agenda

The EU Referendum campaign officially began on April 15 and the voting in the Referendum itself takes place on June 23.

Despite this, the government pre-empted the campaign, and its spending limits, by producing a 16-page booklet with a print run of 27 million, financed by £9.3m of public funds, sent to households across England, urging people to vote for Britain to remain in the European Union. The mail-out in Scotland, Wales and the north of Ireland is being delayed until after the elections to the devolved bodies. The spending consists of nearly £6m on printing and delivering the leaflets, and nearly £3m on targeted digital promotion of an online version. Such was the outrage that a petition attracted more than 200,000 signatures, double the threshold for a debate in Parliament, which is due to be held on May 9.

On April 13, the Electoral Commission, following the EU Referendum Act 2015 and the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, designated the lead organisations for the "Remain" and "Leave" campaigns. There was just one contender for "Remain", called "The In Campaign", but several for "Leave". Choosing such a designated organisation is no small matter, since £600,000 of public funds is at stake, as well as a free distribution of information to voters, referendum campaign broadcasts and free use of certain public rooms. "Vote Leave" was chosen by the Electoral Commission as "adequately represent[ing] those campaigning" for leaving the EU.

Thus the people are being asked to participate in the referendum with no say in setting the agenda. The "official" remain and leave campaigns are headed by establishment figures, and the people are being asked to line up behind arguments which give the people no role in decision-making.

What are the issues? What is at stake? The working class and people must reject "Project Fear". Passions are being raised to create splits and divisions amongst the people, rather than engaging the people in a serious debate to look at the facts and arguments and reach a conclusion. Such a conclusion takes into account matters of principle, and is not confined, as the establishment figures would have us believe, to what "benefits the British people" but takes into account what will open a path which favours the working class and people of England, Scotland and Wales, and defends the rights of all, acting as one with the working people of Europe, and defending the rights of the workers who are made to suffer from the "free movement of labour", which is "free movement" for the EU barons, but forced movement for the workers.

That is not to say that a stand should not be taken. For the problems of the economy to be solved, for example, and a new direction taken, Britain cannot remain in the EU. For that matter, from the problems that Greece faced from the Troika of the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission, it is clear that the EU, with its concentration of power and wealth in a few hands, is a cause of the problems of the economies of European countries, not a solution. In other words, the EU of the monopolies is an EU of the austerity agenda and neo-liberalism.

Working people need and aspire to be in control of their own lives. The EU is a block to this aspiration, as it strengthens the power of the global monopolies, and further disempowers the people. It is also a further threat to peace and a factor for war, contrary to the propaganda that it has ensured peace in Europe. It cannot be otherwise when the big powers of Europe are pro-war, not anti-war governments. The aggressive US-led NATO alliance is also strengthening its co-operation with the EU, notably in their moves to encircle Russia.

Arguments that the British government could have persuaded the European Union to enable them to do more to save the steel industry in this country, despite the EU dictate that forbids state rescue and restructuring of "failing" industries, particularly steel, are also clutching at straws. What is needed is a public authority with the power to invest, set prices, and determine the direction of the economy and the steel industry in particular. This runs contrary to all the EU stands for, making a fetish of "free competition".

In short, it is the working class which must become organised as the pro-social force to change the direction of the economy and society. It is a cruel joke to suggest that workers' rights are guaranteed by the EU. Workers and their defence organisations have had to fight to affirm these rights, which still remain under severe attack, for instance from the notorious Trade Union Bill. Has EU law guaranteed the rights of Junior Doctors? In fact, untrammelled monopoly right is what underlies the aims of the EU, as the people of Greece know to their cost. The nuit debout demonstrations of working people in France are also a manifestation that rights have to be fought for. The conclusion is that it is the working class and people themselves who must be empowered to guarantee their rights and the rights of all. It is disarming the workers to suggest that they should entrust their fate to EU laws and regulations.

In this sense, rather than lining up behind the "official" Remain and Leave campaigns, the working class must develop a powerful movement with its allies in society to become the guarantors of an independent, sovereign economy, trading with a view only for mutual benefit of both partners, rejecting the neo-liberal agenda, and building a strong manufacturing base and a self-reliant agriculture for the benefit of the economies of Scotland, Wales and Britain as a whole.

No to EU Austerity! Yes to the Sovereignty of Nations!
Britain Must Leave the EU! For an Alternative Where the Working People Set the Agenda!

Article Index

For An Anti-War Government!

The Anglo-Americans and their Allies Must Cease All Interference in Libya

Five years after the event the media has been full of reports of an interview with US President Obama, in which he alleges that the "worst mistake" of his presidency was "failing to plan for the day after...intervening in Libya". Of course Obama did not mean that the NATO invasion of a sovereign African country in order to effect regime change and the assassination of its head of state was a mistake. In the same interview he made clear that in his mind US intervention "was the right thing to do".

It speaks volumes about the nature of US imperialism and its chieftain that such a statement can be made. How is it conceivable that the commander in chief of the most powerful military in the world can organise armed intervention in another country, overthrow its government without having any consideration for the consequences of that act, nor any plan to deal with those consequences. Can such a story be believed following the experience of Afghanistan and Iraq? Of course it cannot, not least because the NATO intervention lasted many months and also because it is evident that even in the US the inappropriately named National Security Council engaged in lengthy forward planning. Then the US, Britain and their allies followed a similar strategy in Syria, with similarly disastrous results for the people of that country and the surrounding region.

RFA Mounts Bay, a Bay class auxiliary landing ship dock of the Royal Fleet Auxiliar, stationed within striking distance of Libya, with commandos, intelligence operators and landing craft specialists of the 150-strong amphibious Special Purpose Task Group (SPTG)

In previous interviews Obama has sought to shift the blame for the chaos and anarchy that followed the NATO invasion, the unleashing of ISIS and other sinister forces in Libya, the racist attacks and murders as well as the ensuing refugee crisis, onto others. To this end the governments of Britain and France were blamed and even the Libyans themselves were held responsible, since Obama claimed, in the most blatant Eurocentric manner, "the degree of tribal divisions in Libya were greater than our analysts had expected". But facts are stubborn things and the war crimes committed in Libya are the responsibility of the governments of the US, Britain, France and their allies that had no business intervening in Libya. There is now also ample evidence to show that their claims that civilian lives were at risk from the Libyan government, the justification for the NATO intervention on the basis of an alleged "right to protect", were completely false.

The NATO intervention has created a catastrophic situation in a country that was once one of the most developed and stable in Africa and has had ramifications throughout North Africa and even further afield as events in Mali and Northern Nigeria have demonstrated. Over the past five years Libya has been in chaos with two rival governments vying for supremacy, millions of people have become refugees within their own country and Libya has become a major disembarkation point for refugees from other parts of Africa and western Asia trying to reach Europe. Already this year around 20,000 refugees have arrived in Europe from Libya having made the hazardous Mediterranean crossing. Although further political intervention by the big powers appears to have resulted in a new Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya it remains in a fragile position and is reluctant to be seen as merely the proxy of NATO. It appears that ironically in these circumstances plans by NATO for further official military intervention have had to be temporarily shelved. Both the NATO General Secretary and Britain's Foreign Secretary have made it clear that
as soon as the GNA requests further foreign intervention they will act accordingly. In recent days the GNA has held meetings with the governments of Britain, Italy, France, Spain as well as the UN and so it appears all the conditions are being created for further intervention.

Nevertheless, it is well established that special forces from Britain, France and other countries are already deployed in Libya and this situation has resulted in the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee criticising Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond for misleading them over the government's intentions regarding Libya. They have accused Hammond of being "less than candid" and "wholly and deliberately misleading" over the existing intervention of British special forces, as well as on the government's plans to conduct further air strikes and send 1,000 British troops to Libya to defend the GNA and train the Libyan army. The accusations have been made following a visit by the committee to North Africa last month. Then they were told by a "British source working at the direction of the defence attaché" that the government was to begin air strikes and send the troops in the "near future". Hammond denied that any such briefing had taken place.

The dangerous and unstable situation in Libya continues as does the meddling of Britain and its allies. The consequences are being felt not only in Libya, and many other parts of Africa, but also in Europe where the refugee crisis continues. Britain and the other big powers have created this chaos and instability and are poised to justify further intervention by posing as the saviours, those that can solve problems which they themselves have caused. Nothing can be further from the truth, as recent history has shown. The demand must be that Britain and its allies cease all intervention in Libya and elsewhere. What is required is not more warmongering and warfare but rather an anti-war government that puts the interests of the majority of people in Britain and as well as those in other countries at the centre of its activities.

Article Index

Building Resistance against Austerity

March for Health, Homes, Jobs and Education

from the report by People's Assembly campaigner Tom Griffiths

On Saturday, April 16, at least 150,000 people descended on London to make key demands of the government.

As Sam Fairbairn, National Secretary of the People's Assembly, said, "When we organised this demonstration we had no idea how spectacularly the government would fail on all four of our key demands... They've thrown our NHS into crisis, they've decided to attack our education forcing all schools to become academies, they've refused to respond to the steel crisis and protect thousands of jobs and they've done nothing to address the housing crisis."

But after the shameful Panama Papers revelations last week, the demonstration also adopted the slogan, "Cameron must go". And looking out from the stage at the tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Trafalgar Square, and the sea of "Cameron must go" placards, it was clear that everyone there wanted an immediate end to "one rule for the privileged and another rule for the many", Tory politics.

The media coverage of the day was mixed, but not the complete media blackout some might have feared. Although the Sunday headlines were of the usual bland, "go back to sleep Britain" kind, articles reporting on the demo could be found in all the major online news services and even the Daily Mail ran a piece reporting on the "150,000" protesters, with little of their usual sneering.

The People's Assembly Against Austerity was trending on social media all day on Sunday. The anti-austerity movement mounted a huge display of strength on Saturday and confidence is high. We're on the front foot and not stopping until we end Tory Austerity.

The speeches from Trafalgar Square were all united by the theme of solidarity across industries and employment sectors and across all parts of British society. John McDonnell said, "On behalf of Jeremy Corbyn and myself, on behalf of the Leadership of the Labour Party, I pledge you courage and determination and solidarity brothers and sisters." Leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, joined him saying, "We have four demands, we want a publicly owned NHS in which the profit margin has no place... we want a real living wage not George Osborne's fake living wage... we want zero university tuition fees, no forced academies, and we want real council houses, real genuinely affordable housing and a secure tenancy for life, to deliver it we need change, we need to get rid of the Tories." Nurse Danielle Tiplady, moved the crowd (some to tears) with her impassioned story from the front line of the health service, "I came into nursing because I want to
care for every single one of you, but now someone like me from a different background will be blocked from going into the best profession in the world... George Osborne, Jeremy Hunt, the Tories, you have destroyed student nurses' dreams... Shame on you!"

A video message from Jeremy Corbyn was played to the crowd delivering a strong anti-austerity message, "The austerity we're in, at the moment, in Britain, is a political choice, not an economic necessity. The anti-austerity movement, here, in the United States, across Europe, is showing the way... It's in our hands to change society, it's democratic power that will bring about that change - and it's working."

Sam Fairbairn was clear about what the movement demands. He closed his speech by saying, "If you can bail out the banks in a matter of days then you can provide Health, Homes, Jobs and Education for everybody... but instead this government has been complicit in hiding money away in tax havens, stealing money from the majority while telling us at the same time 'we're all in this together'. That's why we're saying today Cameron must go. Cameron you must go now!"

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