Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 48 Number 18, June 16, 2018 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

"Meltdown Monday" on the Railways
Exposes the Wrecking of Public Authority

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

"Meltdown Monday" on the Railways Exposes the Wrecking of Public Authority

The Irrationality of Steel and Aluminium Tariffs:
Failure of G7 Seen in International Trade Agenda

The Need for New Social Relations

DPRK working for Peace on the Korean Peninsula:
Historic First DPRK-US Summit Meeting and Talks Held

DPRK working for Peace on the Korean Peninsula:
Joint Statement of President Donald J Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

"Meltdown Monday" on the Railways Exposes the Wrecking of Public Authority

Striking railway workers at Newcastle central station this month

A thorough breakdown in communication and cohesion brought new crisis to the railways on May 21, on what has become known as "Meltdown Monday". This day saw new timetables come into force across the network. The result was fiasco, with a huge number of services suffering delays and cancellations. People were left standing on platforms waiting for trains that didn't arrive, unable to get to work or travel to school.

The RMT union's reckoning was that, at one point, nearly one in ten Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) trains were either cancelled or more than half an hour late, affecting half a million commuters. GTR runs services in the South East such as Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and the Gatwick Express trains. Northern, which runs services across North of England from Newcastle to Nottingham and in Greater Manchester, Yorkshire, Cumbria and Merseyside, was even worse: one in six trains were cancelled or over 30 minutes late.

The "meltdown" is symptomatic of the privatisation that has resulted in key infrastructure being run by competing private interests and not in the public interest. This has fragmented the rail system and destroyed its coherence, a situation that has long been predicted by workers across the rail industry and their unions.

The rail system was privatised as part of the state giving up its role as having responsibility to provide this infrastructure and instead to pass control to competing private monopolies. Privatisation broke up the state-organised and controlled rail network and farmed it out to competing businesses as a source of capitalist profit. It was part of the wrecking of the public authority and the politicisation of private interests in the early period of the anti-social offensive against the old social democratic arrangements.

The ensuing incoherence has reached crisis point. Theresa May, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and all of the neo-liberals in Parliament are angered and frustrated at the failure; the results they had wished for over many years of privatisation in the railway system are collapsing, no matter what they say and do; there is a madness beyond their control in the breakdown of authority.

What Was Said

The Prime Minister called the disruption to rail journeys "absolutely unacceptable" and declared it "vital for the Government to get to grips with the problem". Michael Fallon, who was Defence Secretary until his resignation last year, echoed this in telling Grayling to "get a grip" on the situation he branded a scandal. But the destruction of the public authority is such that nothing remains but its police powers. So nothing can be done other than this call to "get a grip", which is effectively a call to strengthen these powers.

Theresa May is reported to have ordered the Office of Rail and Road to make an "inquiry" into the implementation of timetable changes so that the "misery currently being endured by the public never happens again".

Chris Grayling himself was not accepting this criticism. He at first singled out Northern and GTR and told the House of Commons that the rail industry had "collectively failed to deliver for the passengers it serves".

"Network Rail finalised the timetable much too late and GTR and Northern were not prepared to manage the timetable change and did not raise a warning that they were not prepared," he said.

"The key priority now is working with the train companies so they can restore a stable service for passengers," he concluded, in a shameless declaration of the vacuousness of the public authority.

In a joint statement, Network Rail, GTR and Northern for their part blamed the fiasco on the "biggest modernisation of the railways since the Victorian era". They apologised for the chaos, citing delayed engineering works and a shortage of trained drivers.

"The Government must take urgent action to fix the travel chaos," said Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. Labour said Grayling had failed in his responsibility and should resign, while opposition parties urged him to "fall on his sword". Labour's Lilian Greenwood, Chairwoman of the Transport Committee, said Network Rail and the rail operators had "undoubtedly failed dismally".

Labour's transport spokesman Andy McDonald said nobody would take responsibility for the rail industry, but that Grayling was "ultimately responsible" for ensuring the companies fulfilled their contracts. "He might want to blame Network Rail but he has failed in his responsibility to oversee it... the buck stops with him," he said.

The RMT also called on the Transport Secretary to resign. "Chris Grayling should get out, the private companies he is propping up should be sacked and the vital rail services the nation depends on should be returned to public ownership," the RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, said. "Meanwhile my members, working at the sharp end of the cancelled and delayed services, are bearing the brunt of the public anger without a shred of support from Govia, Arriva or the Department for Transport," he added.

Furious passengers launched a petition calling on the government to immediately cancel GTR's contract, which has over 17,000 signatures at the time of writing. Others referred to the whole scenario as a tragi-comedy and said that the "delays are a joke". Stephen Trigg, of the Reigate, Redhill and District Rail Users Association, said: "Thameslink is just failing all over the place... 6 out of 12 trains have disappeared from the timetable. That's before any cancellations. How do people get to work?"

What Must Be Done

The crisis exposes the lack of public authority in the public interest. The issue is posing itself in a straightforward practical sense, as an integrated rail system operating across fragmented privately-competing parts has reached the point of a sheer inability to function properly given the demands of a modern socialised economy.

This cannot be done either within the status quo or by returning to the old social-democratic arrangements, since the basis of those arrangements, civil society, is in tatters, and all that remains of public authority is arbitrary power wielded on behalf of powerful private competing monopoly interests.

Therefore the authority needs to be of a new kind, based on a new set of political arrangements consistent with democratic renewal. There is a need to establish a new authority consistent with the needs of the times.

What is needed today is a look at how authority and control needs to change. How can decision-making pass to the people who work in the railway network so that it is cohesive, based on the common public interest and not competing private interests.

Arrangements must be brought into being which favour the peoples, not the financial oligarchs, the monopolies whose rule is tearing apart society's social programmes and infrastructure.

Article Index

The Irrationality of Steel and Aluminium Tariffs

Failure of G7 Seen in International Trade Agenda

Banner reads: "The G7 Does Not Represent Us."

In an article in The Marxist-Leninist Weekly, Online Newspaper of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), K C Adams writes: "Commentators have spoken and written reams regarding President Trump's imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminium and his refusal to sign a new NAFTA deal. This trade agenda is dominating the G7 Summit with claims that most members are opposed to tariffs and trade wars and want a rules-based system. All are united, however, when it comes to the global neo-liberal direction they have set for their economies and they refuse to admit that the G7 has given rise to disasters all over the world. G7 leaders and media speak as if the sky is falling and nothing can be done or understood of Trump's actions. International trade is made to appear as imponderable and beyond the grasp of mere mortals.

"First, anything is knowable following scientific investigation, discussion and analysis, including the actions of humans. Humans act according to the social conditions, the level of the productive forces, their outlook, interests, and the historical crib into which they are born. Trump acts according to his social conditions, outlook, private interests, and imperialist historical crib. His actions appear irrational with regard to trade because imperialist international trade has descended into anarchy and chaos, features of irrationality. International trade is captured within a contradiction. Its present condition demands cooperation but cut-throat competition between private interests to dominate the markets and sources of raw materials prevails. However, within the irrationality of the conditions, and their descent into chaos and crisis, meaning can be found, in particular the necessity for change and how to bring about that change."

Aluminium Imports into US and the 10 Per Cent Tariff

K C Adams continues: "The oligarchs in control of the steel and aluminium sectors are global actors with private interests scattered throughout the world. Oligopolies such as those formed by mining and aluminium producer Rio Tinto and global aluminium producer Alcoa are larger than many states in terms of gross income and the new value their workers produce. The concentration of social wealth and power in the hands of a few is unlike anything the world has ever seen. Alcoa has private interests in the US, Canada and elsewhere. Although these giants export aluminium into the US market, they appear to gain from the Trump 10 per cent tariff, as market prices for the metal have risen since the tariff became a talking point last January."

The article continues: "Trump's remarks that the aluminium tariff is meant to create jobs in the US sector do not appear to have substance. In fact, they appear irrational. The existing smelter capacity in the US is incapable of supplying the demand. Rebuilding smelter capacity would take years to accomplish and may itself be an irrational response under current conditions. The rise in market prices from tariffs could possibly allow Alcoa to re-commission several stalled US aluminium smelters it owns and controls but as yet it has not made any steps in this regard. The amount of potential production in the US is not large, and besides, international production from Alcoa can meet demand and increasing US production would depress prices. The current higher prices could stimulate more internal recycling of aluminium but again even that amount would come nowhere near to meeting current demand without the global supply from Canada, China, Russia and elsewhere."

Further on, K C Adams writes: "In 2012, the US produced 2,070,000 metric tonnes. Much of that productive capacity has been decommissioned, as imported aluminium from Canada, China and Russia is far more cheaply produced. The main already-produced value needed for primary aluminium production is bauxite and electricity. The transferred-value from electricity forms around one-third of the final price of production. The price of production of electricity is much higher in the US than in Canada, China and Russia.

"Trump's tariffs on aluminium imports will only make a small dent in the 6 million imported tonnes. Some US production may come on stream, probably from increased recycling. The biggest difference will be the higher market price, not only in the US but worldwide, at least for a time. The higher price is also a result of the global economic recovery from the 2008 crisis and the ever-increasing war preparations and global sales of military planes, missiles, bombs, ships and other means of destruction.

"Private interests concentrated within global companies characterised as oligopolies and cartels, such as Rio Tinto and Alcoa, have become supranational entities. They marshal their power of privilege, control, social wealth and contacts to manipulate in their favour the affairs of economies and states. They confront other private interests in a permanent condition of competition and collusion. The competition and collusion to serve their private interests and not the common good reduce all other considerations to secondary pragmatic issues, only of concern if they affect their primary aim and motive to expropriate as much as possible of the new value workers produce."

The article stresses: "The entire world is blocked from moving forward. The control of these private interests, these uber rich oligarchs concentrated in oligopolies and cartels, reduce the working people to spectators of their own economy, into impotent onlookers of the affairs that affect their lives. The main business and actions of states have been reduced to serving the private interests of competing oligarchs resulting in a continual condition of civil war for political power and control." K C Adams points out: "The supranational control and decisions of the oligarchs have surpassed even the mysteries of state, as the situation degenerates into global anarchy, recurring crises, constant war and irrationality."

The article concludes: "The decisions of Trump, Trudeau and other G7 members on trade are of this obscurantist nature. They reflect the irrationality of a world gone mad in competition to serve powerful private interests in a race to be first and dominant. Imperialist competition is in contradiction with the necessity for cooperation to solve the problems of today's economy and world. The ruling oligarchs and their mania to serve their private interests and all else be damned is out of sync with the modern world and its socialised productive forces. Today's world and its peoples are interconnected; their economies are interrelated. They need cooperation for mutual benefit and development to solve their problems and allow the productive forces of industrial mass production and social product to reach their full potential to guarantee the well-being and security of all and not the narrow private interests of a privileged few. They need the human factor/social consciousness and empowerment now of the working people to bring this necessary cooperation and unity into being.

"This world of socialised productive forces has the material capacity to sort out all problems facing humans and the social and natural environment. What is absent from making it happen? There is not any attempt to make rational the irrationality of the actions of the oligopolies and their political servants and states and their unbridled competition to favour their narrow private interests. Crucially absent is the empowerment and control of the actual producers, the working people within the socialised economy where they work and live. The pro-social aim, outlook and potential control of the working people are in conformity with the modern social and productive conditions. They are the necessary human factor to sort things out. The struggle is centred on empowering and bringing into being the control and pro-social aim of the working people.

"International trade under the modern productive forces is understandable only within the pro-social outlook, interests, and social conditions of the actual producers who create the social wealth and reproduce their own human condition and the socialised economy. The working people, the mere mortals who are the essential human factor of the modern world, have to empower themselves now and emerge from under the suffocating anti-social control and outlook of the imperialist oligarchs. They have to become masters of their own thinking, outlook and interests and extend their control to all the affairs of the economy and state that affect their lives. This is the only way to make international trade rational. This is the only way to bring sense to their lives and open a path forward."

Article Index


The Need for New Social Relations

June 14 marked the anniversary of the untold tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people lost their lives and which left the community traumatised and angry. The people themselves have upheld an outlook of hope in their stand over the past year and in the silent march which was held to commemorate the anniversary. This outlook is not one engendered by the government or the authorities, but by the initiative of the people themselves and their humanity.

Indeed, the inhumanity of those in authority and the lack of progress in dealing with the survivors humanely in terms of re-housing and providing support, as well as bringing those responsible to justice, is notable. The whole tragedy, both before and after the fire, has underlined the anarchy that prevails in the economic sphere, and that the social relations which prevail demonstrate that working people must take power into their own hands. That is fundamentally what is revealed by the reality of class privilege and that the human factor/social consciousness is required in order to right the iniquities of society which flow from this reality.

Before the tragic event, reports had revealed how vulnerable such flats as Grenfell Tower were, yet it was the residents who were threatened with the law in fighting for change. And after the event little has happened to ensure the safety of similar tower blocks. This is a major scandal.

WWIE salutes the bereaved families, relatives and the people as a whole for not sitting idly by and for doing everything they can to rebuild the community and uphold the rights of all. But for all this, the apologies and fine words from the government have been proved nothing but a block to solving the problems.

With the Inquiry set up by the government, the people themselves had to fight to get their terms of reference recognised, their participation, their outlook. Even then, the firefighters who heroically dealt with this tragedy waiting to happen have been targeted by the Metropolitan Police for the "stay put" advice, which is sound advice when safety regulations and care had been followed. As is now known, this is the opposite of the case.

Justice must prevail over Grenfell Tower, the government itself must be held to account, and the people turn the tragedy, as they are doing, into a landmark in working for a society fit for human beings, in which the power of decision-making is vested in the people.

Article Index

DPRK working for Peace on the Korean Peninsula

Historic First DPRK-US Summit Meeting and Talks Held

Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army, held a summit meeting with US President Donald Trump, at Sentosa Island of Singapore on June 12, 2018, for the first time in the history of the two countries.

The meeting and talks were held in the context of putting an end to the extremely hostile relations between the DPRK and the US, and of opening up a new future favouring the peoples of both countries as well as global peace and security.

Noting that it had not been easy to get to where they were, Kim Jong Un said that they had overcome a past of prejudice and wrong practice to achieve this summit and stand at a new starting point.

The two leaders discussed the practical issues involved in putting an end to the decades-long hostile relations between the DPRK and the US and in ensuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. There followed a comprehensive and in-depth discussion over the issues of establishing new DPRK-US relations and building a permanent and durable peace mechanism.

Noting that many problems had occurred due to deep-rooted distrust and hostility existing between the two countries, Kim Jong Un said that in order to achieve peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and realise its denuclearisation, the two countries with mutual understanding should commit themselves to refraining from antagonising each other and should take legal and institutional steps to guarantee this.

He also underlined the need for the DPRK and the US to take practical measures at an early date to actively implement the issues discussed at the talks and included in the joint statement.

Kim Jong Un immediately agreed to Trump's proposal for recovering the remains of American soldiers and repatriating those already identified and gave instructions for measures to be taken to carry this out as soon as possible.

Noting that the building of lasting and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean Peninsula is of weighty significance in ensuring peace and security in the region and the rest of the world, he said that it is urgent to make bold decisions on halting irritating and hostile military actions against each other.

Trump for his part expressed his intention to halt the US-south Korea joint military exercises, which the DPRK side regards as a provocation, over a period consisting of good-will dialogue between the DPRK and the US. The US would offer security guarantees to the DPRK and lift sanctions against it along with improving mutual relations through dialogue and negotiation.

Kim Jong Un clarified the stand that if the US side takes genuine measures for building trust in order to improve DPRK-US relation, the DPRK, too, can continue to take additional good-will measures commensurate with them.

Kim Jong Un and Trump had the shared recognition to the effect that it is important to abide by the principle of step-by-step and simultaneous action in achieving peace, stability and denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Trump expressed the expectation and belief that the two countries which have lived in a quagmire of hostility, distrust and hatred would put that unhappy past behind them and dynamically advance toward an excellent and proud future beneficial to each other and that a new era, an era of DPRK-US co-operation, would open up.

Kim Jong Un invited Trump to visit Pyongyang at a convenient time and Trump invited Kim Jong Un to visit the US. The two leaders accepted each other's invitations, which would serve as important occasions for improved DPRK-US relations.

The DPRK-US summit talks held in Singapore have been welcomed by all throughout the world who fervently wish for a permanent and lasting peace agreement between the US and the DPRK as well as the Republic of Korea. It is an imperative of the times that all should appraise what can be done to contribute to reconciliation, peace, stability and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, and consign Cold War hostility to history.

(Pyongyang, June 13, KCNA)

Important Public Meeting - Working for Peace on the Korean Peninsula

Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Kim Jong Un (left) and President Moon Jae-in (right)

Please attend and mobilise for this important public meeting being held in the context of the critical and momentous developments for peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula. Support the right of the Korean people to self-determination, independence and peace!

Marx Memorial Library
37a Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0DU
Sunday, July 1, 2018, 2.30 pm

The meeting is being held with the participation of a representative of the Embassy of the DPR of Korea in London. Speakers will include representatives of the participating organisations of Friends of Korea, which is an organisation uniting organisations and individuals in Britain working for friendship and understanding with the Korean people. The meeting aims to provide information on the factors favouring reunification and peace on the Korean Peninsula and provide opportunity for questions and discussion.

Hosted by Friends of Korea (Britain)

Article Index

DPRK working for Peace on the Korean Peninsula

Joint Statement of President Donald J Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

President Donald J Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth, and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new US-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

Convinced that the establishment of new US-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognising that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:

1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.

2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018, Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Having acknowledged that the US-DPRK summit - the first in history - was an epochal event of great significance and overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulations in this joint statement fully and expeditiously.

The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations led by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the US-DPRK summit.

President Donald J Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have committed to co-operate for the development of new US-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.

Donald Trump
Kim Jong Un

Article Index

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