|Volume 47 Number 10, May 27, 2017
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
Election Campaign 2017:
Theresa May's Manifesto Pledge that Means the Greatest NHS Property Sell-off Ever
Election Campaign 2017:
For an Anti-War Government: No to Aggression against Syria!
Intervention of Big Powers in Africa:
Oppose Attempts to Establish EU Borders in Africa
100th Anniversary Year of the Great October Revolution:
Centenary of Lenin's April Theses
The election campaign of Theresa May and the Conservative Party has been one where total irrationality has set in, under the pretext of presenting "strong and stable" government as an option. What is going to lead Britain out of the economic and social crisis that it finds itself in? What is going to resolve all the divisions and contradictions, divisions within the ruling elite, but also between that elite and the working people as a whole, as well as the contradictions within the oligarchies that are reflected in the tense confrontations over the EU and Brexit. Furthermore, what is going to resolve the issue of "terrorism" as exemplified in the Manchester Arena attack, which, as more details are revealed about the alleged perpetrator of the attack, becomes increasingly murky with the hand of the state being implicated in its background. What is going to resolve the national question within the UK, the issue of the national rights of the Scottish and Welsh peoples, as well as those of the people of Ireland?
The Conservative Manifesto repeats the slogan on Brexit that "no deal is better than a bad deal". This is meant to strengthen Theresa May's position vis-a-vis the divisions within the Conservative Party as well as in her dog-fight with the European Union itself. But the reality is that without a nation-building project there can be no way out of the crisis, no alternative to the status quo. In other words, a nation-building project is the necessary condition for a planned future, for the working class and people to be in control of matters which affect their lives, and for modern sovereign states of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Another example of Theresa May's delusions and irrationality is the declaration of the necessity to "cleanse the internet" in the wake of the Manchester Arena explosion. King Canute was demonstrating that he did not possess supreme powers when failing to turn the tide, but Theresa May is demonstrating the irrationality that police powers can halt the advance of the scientific-technological revolution.
There is a desperation in this irrationality. Which interests is it supposed to serve? The private interests which seek to fight it out to win in the global economy have no responsibility to society or to any economic base. The productive forces on a world scale are far beyond what these private interests are trying to control. The choice which presents itself for the working class in these circumstances goes far beyond accepting or rejecting making their "own" monopolies competitive in the global market. The working class has to say No! to the destruction of the productive forces at the hands of these oligopolies, these private interests. It has to step up the work to develop and fight for its own independent programme. It is an urgent matter to develop and rally round its own independent politics and defend the rights of all.
There are crucial issues of war and peace which need to be addressed, especially in the wake of the Manchester Arena attack at home and the bombings and drone attacks abroad in Syria and elsewhere. Clearly it is being pointed out by the progressive forces that Britain's foreign policy - by which is meant the tearing up of the respect for sovereignty, the disregard for international law, the subversion and the overt pursuit of regime change - has been the condition for the "terrorism" against which the "war on terror" is being waged. However, the crucial condition for peace which the independent programme of the working class upholds is respect for the right to be. The ruling elites which try and contend with the interests of the oligopolies and the contradictions between them cannot overcome the serious contradictions in their ranks by the means of force. This is the situation which is threatening to engulf the world, as they threaten the people who demand their sovereignty and emancipation with nuclear weapons and a nuclear holocaust.
It is not a simply a matter of warmongering policies versus a just and progressive foreign policy. In that sense, this general election is not designed to and will not sort out anything. What will be decisive in contributing to opposition to a war government and fighting for a programme of peace and security is putting on the agenda and fighting to elect an anti-war government. The Westminster political system and institutions, with a system which is supposed to be representative, have been perfected to keep the working class and people out of power. This must be challenged. The aim has to be to deprive the warmongers of their power, a power which they use to deprive the people of power to affect the situation and control the direction of society. Britain itself has had the experience of February 15, 2003, when two million demonstrated to stop the war against Iraq, and Jeremy Corbyn gave his speech which has recently again gone viral predicting a cycle of wars and terror. The conclusion which many drew as warranted was that the people were the ultimate superpower, "the many, not the few" if you will. In other words, the present parliamentary system has had its day and new mechanisms for empowerment have to be brought into being.
Neither terrorist attacks nor targeted assassinations are any solution to war, anarchy and violence. It is the political movement of the working class itself and its allies which will provide the solution. The working class has to advance its own agenda for a world without war, an agenda which leaves the old world behind and empowers the people, who desire peace and security.
It should be pointed out that the Manchester Arena attack occurred right at the time the election campaign was exposing the anti-social offensive and threadbare pretexts of Theresa May and her team. As such it was immediately utilised by the powers-that-be to attempt to prevent the people uniting around the stands of Corbyn and the Labour Party which favour the working class, and indeed uniting in any other way apart from behind the mantra of safeguarding "our way of life". But it is questionable whether even this has been successful.
The working class and people demand justice, peace and freedom. To surrender the initiative, leave aside developing the political movement of the working class and not organise to implement its independent programme is not an option if the people are to avert the dangers which lie ahead.
Develop the Independent Politics of the Working Class!
Defend the Rights of All!
Statement of RCPB(ML) - May 23, 2017
RCPB(ML) condemns the bomb attack at the Manchester Arena in which it is known that 22 people, including children, lost their lives and 59 were injured.
This is an horrific attack, and our Party adds its voice to all those who have expressed condolences and whose thoughts are with the victims and those affected by the explosion. The police reports are that a lone suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive device at the conclusion of the pop concert, attended by many thousands of people, mostly young people in their teens. We also pay tribute to the emergency services and the ordinary people of Manchester who have demonstrated such a courageous and humanitarian response.
Election campaigning has been suspended, at least for May 23, while the government's Cobra emergency committee is meeting this morning.
While condemning the attack, whose perpetrator has yet to be named and the background to the attack explained, it is important that the people remain vigilant and oppose this and other recent attacks, such as that on Westminster Bridge, being utilised to further undermine the rule of law and bolster the call for "strong government", exceptional measures and unfettered state and police powers in the face of a climate of anarchy and violence.
If the circumstances are used to foster a sense of hopelessness and helplessness among the people, then this too must not be allowed to succeed.
It must also be pointed out that on a daily basis in Syria, Iraq and other countries which have been destabilised by imperialist aggression and interference, many scores of people are losing their lives through this aggression. One can cite just the recent drone and missile strikes by the US in Syria with the backing of the British government which have killed many innocent civilians. These too must be condemned.
These are indeed dangerous times, and we call on the working class and people in these circumstances to be pro-active in defending the right to conscience, and working to uphold and defend the rights of all.
On Monday, May 22, in a BBC interview with Andrew Neil, Theresa May was asked about the Conservative manifesto pledge on health that it claims would implement "the most ambitious programme of investment in buildings and technology that the NHS has ever seen". In her answer Theresa May claimed that there would be an extra £10bn of capital funding for the NHS over the next Parliament if the Conservatives won the general election. She claimed that building and technology funding was "separate from the NHS revenue funding" and said that the capital funding would come from a "variety of sources" but refused to give further details other than to say that "we are backing the proposals in the Naylor Report".
What does the Naylor Reporti say? Sir Robert Naylor's "independent report" was commissioned by the Secretary for State for Health, Jeremy Hunt and was published in March 2017. The report set out "a new direction of strategy for NHS estates in England". Yet while the report claims to be dealing in part with the backlog of repair estimated at £5bn to existing NHS estate he claims that such a back log can no longer be fully funded when he says "this review was predicated on widely accepted assumptions that the NHS estate is not currently configured to maximise benefits for patients or taxpayers." So, his report starts by saying that: "My review set out to develop a new NHS estate strategy, which supports the delivery of specific Department of Health (DH) targets to release £2bn of assets for reinvestment and to deliver land for 26,000 new homes." Further: "This work suggests that the NHS can release £2bn of assets and deliver 26,000 homes and with an effective programme of interventions in high value propositions in London, this could significantly increase the property receipts to a figure exceeding £5bn in the longer term."
In other words, a new Conservative government and NHS England will cover over massive cuts to existing infrastructure in "investment in buildings and technology" through selling off NHS land and buildings for housing plots for the big housing corporations. In line with this direction the Naylor Report also recommends the "acceleration" of Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), which mean the closures of District Hospitals and other locally based NHS services through "incentives". The report says, "At a minimum, the Department of Health (DH) and HM Treasury (HMT) should provide robust assurances to STPs that any sale receipts from locally owned assets will not be recovered centrally provided the disposal is in agreement with STP plans. This report recommends that HMT should provide additional funding to incentivise land disposals through a '2 for 1 offer' in which public funds match disposal receipts."
To enact this great land and building sell off the Naylor Report also recommends the establishment of a powerful new arms-length NHS Property Board "which provides leadership to the centre and expertise and delivery support to Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). It should be a strategic organisation, at arms-length from the Department of Health and structured so that it empowers speedy executive action and professional credibility within the sector. To include a regional structure, which is aligned with NHS England (NHSE) & NHS Improvement (NHSI) and brings together functions of NHS Property Services (NHS PS), Community Health Partnerships (CHP) and other fragmented NHS property capabilities into a single organisation."
NHS Property Services (NHS PS), formerly NHS Propco, was set up in 2012 following the Health and Social Care Act, having taken over £5bn worth of property - some 3,500 properties, including offices, primary care and community health facilities formerly used by the Primary Care Trusts. On this the Naylor report says a shadow form of the NHS Property Board should be set up immediately and "consider if the functions and residual assets it inherits from the abolition of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) should be divested back to providers." Otherwise all this property will become part of this great sell off of NHS property being implemented by a future Conservative government, or part of it as Trusts are forced to dispose of NHS property and land through the STPs or to cover their "deficits".
In reporting on the comment of Theresa May that this funding would come from a "variety of sources" the Health Service Journal said, "HSJ understands that although some will be new money from the Treasury, much will come from private sources and sales of existing NHS estate." On this the Naylor Report says: "Substantial capital investment is needed to deliver service transformation in well evidenced STP plans. We envisage that the total capital required by these plans is likely to be around £10bn, in the medium term, which could be met by contributions from three sources; property disposals, private capital (for primary care) and from HMT."
It is no wonder that Theresa May was reluctant to mention more details, when she said that "investment in buildings and technology" would be funded by a "variety of sources" and when this includes the greatest NHS property sell off ever seen and the increasing use of private capital and privatisation of community health services implicit in this report. In this respect the creation of the Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs) modelled on the US style private health care system are already being talked about as one of the models for the STPs which the next government will use.
In the present battle to safeguard the future of the NHS and to build an alternative future, what is being further revealed by Theresa May's plan for NHS infrastructure is the neo-liberalisation of health care and the aim of destroying the social ownership of the NHS and the destruction of public assets and public authority by a central government that represents the neo-liberal interests of health and and other monopolies. This contemporary development is a systematic attempt to wreck the public health care system by centralising the destruction of public authority over the NHS and hive off its assets to the rich. It is why the people should continue to fight to establish themselves as the new public authority that upholds the right of all to health care and demands social ownership of the NHS by building the independent political movement of the working class and people to safeguard the future of the NHS.
In recent weeks, there have been several newspaper reports claiming that Theresa May hopes to use any landslide election victory to force a vote in the House of Commons to approve military action against the armed forces of the Syrian government.
Several papers refer to briefings from an unnamed "senior Whitehall source" to the effect that the government would justify such military action on the grounds of preventing future gas attacks on civilians. The government still maintains that the gassing of civilians in Khan Sheikhoun in Syria last month was as the result of deliberate targeting by the Syrian air force - it even claims to have further evidence - rather than by attempts to destroy chemical weapons being deployed by forces hostile to the Syrian government, that are supported by Anglo-American imperialism and its allies. Just as in the period before the invasion of Iraq attempts are being made to justify invasion and war. It seems that the government intends that any strikes sanctioned by a House of Commons vote would again be launched to eliminate Syria's air force, once a suitable pretext could be established. However, government ministers such as the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, refused to make any comment on the government's plans for a Commons vote following the election.
These Whitehall briefings come in the wake of comments by the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, who argued that the government would find it difficult to refuse if the US asked for military support in any subsequent attack on the Syrian government and, he indicated, that such support might be given without a parliamentary vote. Although there are some press reports of differences within the government over whether to move for a Commons vote or not, the clear intention appears to be to create the conditions for further military strikes on Syria in pursuit of the stated aim of regime change and the toppling of al-Assad's government. This aim was rejected in the recent report of the House of Lords Select Committee on International Relations, nevertheless it remains the intention of the government in alliance with other members of the warmongering US-led NATO which favours an invasion of Syria under the auspices of the UN.
Direct military intervention was immediately opposed by the other major Westminster parties - the Labour Party, Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, stated that a vote for the Conservatives "is a vote to escalate the war in Syria and prolong the suffering of its people", and "a vote to repeat the mistakes of Iraq", and she added that such warmongering risked an open conflict with Russia and Iran and that the government was blindly following the lead of US imperialist chieftain Donald Trump. The joint leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, even argued that in the context of the election that "people need a say on foreign policy".
In the forthcoming election, no support should be given to the warmongers and those who conciliate with them but the election will not give people the ability to decide whether the elected government engages in further military intervention in Syria, or continues to interfere and intervene in other countries. Recent years have been witness to military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and many other countries, which has been pursued in the interests of the monopolies and financial institutions and at the expense of the people of these countries, as well as the majority of people in Britain. No problems have been solved by the use of force, which has led to the deaths and suffering of millions and created more instability in the world. Such warmongering by successive governments has given rise to a significant and broad movement against war, which includes millions of people of many different political affiliations united in their opposition to war and in their demand that Britain withdraws from NATO and all military adventures around the world.
What needs to be developed are the independent politics of the working class and people. The independent political stand that we cannot expect a solution to the problem of war and peace from the political system as it currently exists nor from the Westminster cartel parties that have lied and created false justifications for intervention and war so many times in the past. Those who are aim to stay the hands of the warmongers must do their own thinking, oppose the disinformation of the powers-that-be and the mass media and develop our own anti-war actions, so as to build the people's movement against war. In this regard, we must consider how to develop the anti-war movement in such a way that we can create the conditions to establish an anti-war government based on the majority of people empowered as the decision-makers.
It was recently reported that representatives of the governments of Italy and Germany called on the EU to establish a mission on the border of Libya and Niger, ostensibly to curtail the numbers of migrants and refugees who eventually cross the Mediterranean and arrive in Europe. Ministers of the Interior from Italy and Germany wrote a joint letter to the EU Commission in early May stating that more must be done to "prevent that hundreds of thousands of people once again risk their lives in Libya and on the Mediterranean Sea in the hands of smugglers".
In fact, this demand is a request for an extension of the existing EUCAP Sahel Niger mission, part of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), begun in 2012 to allegedly give "security" advice to the government of Niger. Already over 120 representatives of European security forces and justice departments are deployed in Niamey, the country's capital. Since 2014 EUCAP personnel have also been deployed in Agadez, central Niger, specifically to deal with migration and other perceived threats to Europe and in regular liaison with other CSDP missions including EUCAP Sahel Mali and the EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) Libya. The current head of EUBAM, which "supports the Libyan authorities in developing border management and security" is a representative of the Italian government, who has been based in Libya for over a decade.
However, despite this and other extensive intervention by the EU and individual EU countries in North Africa and the Sahel already this year over 50,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean and landed in Italy, nearly all of them making the crossing from Libya. A recently leaked report from the German government claims that there are potentially as many as 2.5 million people waiting in North Africa to make the perilous sea journey to Europe. The report claims that numbers have risen by 650,000 since January. Around 1m are in Libya, a similar number in Egypt, around 430,000 in Algeria and smaller numbers in Morocco and Tunisia. Some of these originate from Africa, but others are fleeing from conflicts in Syria, Iraq, or fleeing from poverty and instability from other countries in Asia. Libya has been a favoured route since its government was overthrown by military intervention by Britain and the other NATO powers in 2011. Since that time, the country has been in a state of almost total anarchy, with rival governments and militias vying for power, and parts of the country in the hands of so-called Islamic State and other terrorist organisations.
However, as the leaked report suggests Libya is not the only embarkation point in North Africa, and it is also claimed that over 3m migrants are presently being held in Turkey, prevented from crossing into Europe by the Turkish government, which concluded an agreement for that purpose with the EU. The German government is apparently seeking similar agreements between the EU and North African countries. For its part, the Italian government has recently signed its own agreements with Niger, Libya and Chad to stem the flow of migrants and refugees passing through these countries. It is also attempting to establish reception centres for migrants and asylum seekers in these countries, although such centres in Libya have already been condemned as simply detention centres notorious for violence, torture and rape. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has already urged the Libyan authorities to release all asylum seekers from such centres.
It appears that Italy, Germany and other EU countries are using the global refugee crisis as the means not only to extend Europe's border controls far into Africa, but also to extend their meddling in the internal affairs of several African countries. The measures that have been taken in the Mediterranean and in North Africa and elsewhere have had no impact on the global exodus that is a consequence of impoverishment and economic underdevelopment caused by colonial and neo-colonial rule, and more recent neo-liberal globalisation. In addition, the mass movement of people is a direct result of the instability and armed conflicts in the world, caused largely by the intervention of Britain and the other big powers. The response of Britain and the other big powers is to use the consequences of intervention, such as the anarchy in Libya, as the justification for further intervention in Africa and other parts of the world in line with their geo-political and other aims. This course of action will only exacerbate such problems and bring further suffering to millions. There is an urgent need for the people of Britain, other European countries and elsewhere to take a stand against the actions of the big powers which are creating such havoc throughout the world.
April 16 (April 3 in the old Russian calendar) marked the centenary of the return to Russia from exile of V.I. Lenin. The following day Lenin addressed a meeting of the Bolsheviks and gave his famous April Theses, which outlined the line of march for the communist party and the working class in Russia following the February (March) Revolution of 1917. These ten theses were subsequently published in the Bolshevik Party's newspaper Pravdaas The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution.
Lenin's April Theses were presented in a situation where the Tsar and his regime had been overthrown by the actions of the masses organised in the revolutionary soviets (councils) of workers' and soldiers' deputies. However, "a lack of class consciousness and organisation of the proletariat" had meant that although important democratic rights had been won, governmental power had been assumed by a Provisional Government, dominated by the representatives of the big capitalists and wealthy landowners, although including some who referred to themselves as socialists. Thus, although a revolutionary situation existed throughout Russia, the class character of the government meant that in several important respects its policies differed little from those of its predecessor. It continued to sacrifice millions of Russian soldiers in the slaughter of the First World War by honouring the treaties to re-divide the world agreed by the Tsar with the governments of Britain and France; it did nothing to solve the acute economic crises and poverty facing the masses of people in Russia; nor did it take any measures to redistribute land, the most important means of a livelihood for the majority.
Lenin's theses were based on the concrete analysis of concrete conditions, the conditions as they existed in 1917, and not on a dogmatic rendering of Marxism and the world. They outlined the nature and stage of the revolution, pointing out that the country was going through a transition from an anti-feudal, or bourgeois-democratic, revolution, that had placed the capitalists and big landowners in power, to a socialist revolution that would place power in the hands of the working class and small farmers. There was in effect a situation of dual power in Russia, a trial of strength between a bourgeois government, on the one hand, and the new revolutionary power of the Soviets, on the other. In his theses, Lenin presented the line of march for the communist party, pointing out that it had the task of patiently preparing the working class to empower itself and successfully establish its own sovereignty by establishing a new state power based on the soviets. In this regard, Lenin's views differed from many who considered themselves Marxists. They considered that the capital-centred system and the class rule of the big monopolists and financiers was destined to last for many years. Lenin took a contrary position, based on the view elaborated in his Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) that as a result of the war and the uneven development of capitalism, it was indeed possible to breach the imperialist system of states at its weakest link and move from the first to the second stage of the revolution, which as Lenin said.,"must place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants".
In his April Theses Lenin highlighted the important role of the revolutionary party as the organiser and far-sighted leader of the working class, that can provide the class with the theory to guide its forward march. He explained the importance of the Soviets, as the only possible form of revolutionary government and that it was only this form of government, based on the majority, and defending their interests, that would end the war. He called on the communists to expose the political errors of the leaders of the Soviets, and those under their influence, who at that time preached faith in the Provisional government, demanded a continuation of the predatory imperialist war and were content with a parliamentary system of government. Lenin called on the communists to explain their views widely amongst the workers and especially in the armed forces. They were to demand no support for the Provisional government and in addition to agitate for: the abolition of the existing state institutions, police, army and bureaucracy - all officials were to be elected, liable to recall and paid only the average workers' wage; the nationalisation of all land, which was to be used in the interest of the people under the direction of peasants' and farm workers' soviets; the merging of all banks into a single national bank also under the control of the soviets.
The April Theses also demanded that the Bolsheviks, who had formed the majority in what had been called the Social-Democratic Party in Russia, change their name to the Communist Party. Lenin argued that the Communists must distinguish themselves from others who called themselves socialists and even Marxists, both inside Russia and outside, but had totally betrayed the revolutionary principles of Marxism, particularly in their social-chauvinism and support for the inter-imperialist First World War. In the same context, Lenin also proposed the creation of a new revolutionary International, or organisation of revolutionary anti-war parties, against the social-chauvinists and against the "Centre". This subsequently became the Third (Communist) International, to replace and expose the betrayal and class collaboration of the Second International.
Lenin's April Theses were an indispensable guide not just for the Communists but for the working people of Russia and for the eventual success of the Great October Revolution. They highlighted the fact that the struggle for the new continued even in the period after the February (March) Revolution, that the masses of the people were still in motion and that their aims and interests could be met neither by a parliamentary system nor by a pro-war government which represented the interests of the monopolies, financiers and big landowners. In his Theses Lenin showed that the workers needed their own revolutionary forms of democracy and a new state defending their interests and that these must be based on the new institutions that the people themselves had created, the Soviets, the instruments of the practical politics of the ascendant forces. Lenin's April Theses also highlighted the vital role of the Communist Party as the leader and guide of the working class and its allies and the necessity for such a party to be an advanced detachment of that class, able to adapt its strategy and tactics to solving problems as they present themselves.
Lenin's Communist Party in Russia adopted the April Theses and in the months following gained increasing support in the Soviets. The Provisional Government and all those who supported it were thoroughly exposed as defending the interests of the rich, unwilling to end the war and unable to solve any of the economic, social or political problems facing the majority. It was in these circumstances that the demand for "All Power to the Soviets" was advanced and subsequently realised through the Great October Revolution through the actions of the masses led by the communists. Far from being a coup by a minority as has been suggested, it was rather the resolution of the revolutionary crisis which had existed in Russia for most of 1917, a resolution in which for the first time in history the working class and its allies empowered themselves and ushered in a new era in human history. It is an era which has the aim of the emancipation of the working class and all of humanity.
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