Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 51 Number 10, March 27, 2021 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Police Powers and Violence against Women

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

Police Powers and Violence against Women

Marking the 150th Anniversary of the Paris Commune:
Showing the Way Towards a New Society
The Paris Commune and the Need for Political Power

Celebrating International Women's Day:
Online Meeting of Women on March 8

Anniversary of RCPB(ML):
Letter of Greetings to RCPB(ML) on its 42nd Anniversary from CPC(ML)
Congratulatory Letter from the Workers' Party of Korea to RCPB(ML)

Workers' Forum:
Electricians Fight for their Dignity and Rights

Workers' Strike Struggles

Police Powers and Violence against Women

Like the police killing of George Floyd that has continued to give rise to the stand against
state-organised racism, the death of Sarah Everard has led the outpouring that enough is enough.

Events over the past few weeks have demonstrated the hypocrisy of the police and the government over the claim that the police are serving and protecting the public.

From the police attack on the vigil marking the murder of Sarah Everard to the police violence at the demonstrations in Bristol against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, it has demonstrated that the so-called "rule of law" in the hands of the ruling elites means the unlimited expression of police powers and impunity.

Women are demanding their just place as equal members of society and of the body politic. The outpouring of this sentiment was seen in the vigil at the bandstand on Clapham Common, and it was this that the police violated.

The attack on the vigil on Clapham Common on March 13 can be seen as a signal that power should be seen to lie with the state, and that the people should be kept disempowered, that power was not what the people were entitled to. It emphasised that in particular women could not feel protected by the police.

The murder of Sarah Everard has touched a nerve. Like the police killing of George Floyd that has continued to give rise to the stand against state-organised racism, the death of Sarah Everard has led the outpouring that enough is enough. Women must be safe to walk in the streets, and to do so they stand defiant against police violence, and are putting forward the affirmation, "Reclaim the Streets". They are standing proud to end the violence against women, as well as taking their stand in the front ranks of the fight against the anti-social offensive, as well as the movement against war and aggression. Women are demanding their just place as equal members of society and of the body politic.

The outpouring of this sentiment was seen in the vigil at the bandstand on Clapham Common, and it was this that the police violated. Despite the protestations of the members of the government, it seems certain that the order to attack this vigil came from on high. And police violence and brutality has continued in a high-profile manner, under the guise of upholding safety during the Covid-19 pandemic. Far from the government upholding its responsibility towards women, it is displaying its systematic violence towards them. It is a travesty and an insult that Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick thought fit to assert that statistically, more men are killed then women. Does that even begin to resolve the problem? Does that negate the experience of women, and make them feel protected? As has been pointed out, it was Cressida Dick that in 2005 authorised the Special Firearms Command to send officers to apprehend the innocent Jean-Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Station, who followed the shoot to kill policy.

The links have been drawn therefore between the violence against women, the stepped-up violence of the police against protests and the passage through Parliament of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The nub of this Bill is the arbitrary criteria for the banning of protests and assemblies, in other words, the criminalisation of protest and dissent, on the say-so of those in authority, let alone any objective criteria. It emphasises that society is becoming openly based on the exercise of police powers, synonymous with maintaining the status quo against the humanising of society.

In the face of this, the waves of action against state-organised and state-inspired racism, for the elimination of all forms of state violence, and against the "rule of law" based on police powers, are building into a united torrent. Its aspiration is for decision-making power to enable the people to exercise control over the direction of society. In this, women are playing a forefront role.

For the elimination of all forms of violence against women! No to the anti-social agenda and its violence against society and its members!

Article Index

Marking the 150th Anniversary of the Paris Commune

Showing the Way Towards a New Society

On March 18, 1871, the working class of Paris rose up against the French bourgeoisie and in the subsequent days, the Paris Commune was proclaimed. This marked the first revolutionary seizure of state power by the proletariat and one of the most glorious pages in the history of the international working class.

The heroic efforts of the Parisian workers became an historic turning point in the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie because it acted in its own right and the Communards decisively acted as an independent political force to push a cause defined by themselves. With their blood, the efforts of the heroic Communards remain a source of profound inspiration and invaluable lessons for the communist and workers' movement worldwide.

The establishment of the Commune took place within the conditions of a great revolutionary upheaval in France. In 1870 the French despot Louis Bonaparte had launched an unjust and anti-popular chauvinist war against Prussia in which he suffered a humiliating defeat. In this situation, with Paris under siege by the Prussian army, the Paris Revolution of September 4, 1870, took place, overthrowing Louis Bonaparte's Second Empire and proclaiming a Republic.

"The proletarians of Paris," said the Central Committee in its manifesto of March 18, "amidst the failures and treasons of the ruling classes, have understood that the hour has struck for them to save the situation by taking into their own hands the direction of public affairs...

While the bourgeoisie formed the government of the Republic, the main force of this revolution was the working people of Paris who had been armed to defend the city. When the bourgeois government capitulated to the Prussians after a long siege and then, with the collaboration of the Prussians, attempted to disarm the proletariat on March 18, 1871, the proletariat rose up in resistance and turned its arms against the government of the propertied classes sitting at Versailles. The proletariat established itself as the ruling class for the first time. On March 26, the Paris Commune was elected and on March 28 it was proclaimed.

"The proletarians of Paris," said the Central Committee in its manifesto of March 18, "amidst the failures and treasons of the ruling classes, have understood that the hour has struck for them to save the situation by taking into their own hands the direction of public affairs.... They have understood that it is their imperious duty, and their absolute right, to render themselves masters of their own destinies, by seizing upon the governmental power."

Today the state power in charge of the crisis-ridden capitalist system of wage slavery and exploitation of persons by persons is blocking society's path to progress. The neo-liberal ruling elites have usurped the public authority and the state institutions are controlled directly by the most powerful private monopoly interests. Their inter-monopoly rivalry has not only wrecked the economies of entire countries but destroyed entire nation-states, while others are in profound existential crisis. The social fabric of these countries has unravelled to such an extent that the people have no choice but to find an alternative to the inter-imperialist collusion and contention which is taking the world to the brink of a worldwide conflagration.

In this situation, the lessons of the Paris Commune are especially important for the working class and all the exploited. Its experience shattered the myth of the eternal nature and invincible character of the bourgeois state and its neutrality, a myth that today the ruling elites are determined to keep alive. It provided the first practical confirmation of the most basic tenets of scientific socialism as elaborated by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. It also provided the practical experience which enabled them to further elaborate these principles.

The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time. The Commune made the elected organs accountable. They had previously been simply legislative bodies to rubber stamp those measures needed by the exploiting classes while the bureaucratic apparatus was responsible for their implementation. The legislative bodies were given both legislative and executive functions so that those who passed the laws were also responsible for their implementation. On March 30, only two days after the Commune was proclaimed, it abolished conscription and the standing army, and declared the National Guard, in which all citizens capable of bearing arms were to be enrolled, as the sole armed force. On the same day, it showed its profoundly internationalist character when the foreigners elected to the Commune were confirmed in office, proclaiming that "the flag of the Commune is the flag of the World Republic". In order to protect itself against any careeri sts who might try to advance their own interests at the cost of the working people, the Commune decided to pay its representatives workmen's wages and to declare them all, without exception, subject to recall at any time.

Other revolutionary measures taken by the Commune to dismantle the old state apparatus and establish the new included: the election of public officials such as judges, who were also subject to recall at any time; the separation of the church from the state; the abolition of all state payments for religious purposes and the exclusion from the schools of all religious symbols, pictures, dogmas, prayers, and the like. The latter measures meant that it made the question of religion purely private.

Writing at the time, Marx noted that this proletarian revolution remained so free from the acts of violence in which the revolutions, and still more the counter revolutions, of the so-called "better classes" abound.

The Commune also took important revolutionary measures for the economic emancipation and well-being of the working people. It remitted all payments of rent for dwelling houses from October 1870 until April 1881, the amounts already paid to be booked as future rent payments, and stopped all sales of articles pledged in the municipal loan offices. It abolished night work for bakers and closed the pawn shops, and it took measures to work out plans for the operation of factories, which had been closed down, by organising workers into co-operative societies.

The Paris Commune was, of course, to serve as a model to all the great industrial centres of France. Once the communal regime was established in Paris and the secondary centres, the old centralised government would in the provinces, too, have to give way to the self-government of the producers.

The Communards made a start at carrying out these measures, but most of the Commune's energies were consumed in defending the Commune from the savage onslaught of the Versailles government.

In a rough sketch of national organisation, which the Commune had no time to develop, it states clearly that the Commune was to be the political form of even the smallest country hamlet, and that in the rural districts the standing army was to be replaced by a national militia, with an extremely short term of service.

The rural communities of every district were to administer their common affairs by an assembly of delegates in the central town, and these district assemblies were again to send deputies to the National Delegation in Paris, each delegate to be at any time revocable and bound by the mandat imperatif (formal instructions) of constituents.

Marx points out: "The unity of the nation was not to be broken, but, on the contrary, to be organised by Communal Constitution, and to become a reality by the destruction of the state power which claimed to be the embodiment of that unity independent of, and superior to, the nation itself, from which it was but a parasitic excrescence."

Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to misrepresent the people in Parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people, constituted in Communes. Marx says its true secret was this: "It was essentially a working class government both legislative and executive, the product of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of labour." Further, Marx said that the working class in working out its emancipation "have no ready-made utopias to introduce par décret du peuple" and they "have no ideals to realise, but to set free the elements of the new society with which old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant".

In these revolutionary conditions, the role of women came to the fore. It is important to stress the outstanding role women played in establishing and defending the Paris Commune. The Women's Union (Union des Femmes), which was part of the First International, as their leading organisation, organised working women at the barricades, ambulance stations and canteens. The Women's Union also mobilised them to fight for women's emancipation. Each district of Paris had Union committees for recruiting militant working women. Faced with the treacherous attack on Paris by Thiers' army, Nathalie Lemel, a member of the Union of Women, called on women to join the work: "We have come to the supreme moment, when we must be able to die for our Nation. No more weakness! No more uncertainty! All women to arms! All women to duty! Versailles must be wiped out!" Another outstanding woman fighter was Louise Michel of the Montmartre Vigilance Committee, who was elected its president, thus occupyi ng a leading role in the revolutionary government of the Paris Commune. The committee held workshops, recruited ambulance nurses, gave aid to wives of soldiers, sent speakers to the clubs, and more. She served as a fighter and medical worker in the 61st Battalion of Montmartre.

France's Imperial annexation was brought to an end by the Commune, "the Commune annexed to France the working people all over the world."

By May 1871, the Versailles government had co-opted the Prussians to help it crush the revolt of the workers. When after eight days of heroic resistance the Communards succumbed before the all-out assault of the Versailles troops with co-operation by the Prussians, the slaughter of the defenceless men, women and children, which had been raging all through the week on an increasing scale, reached unprecedented proportions. Thousands upon thousands of unarmed workers were massacred by the bourgeoisie. While the bourgeoisie presents itself as "humanitarian", "reasonable", "just" and "civilised", the Paris Commune showed the extent of frenzied barbarism to which the bourgeoisie will go to crush the revolutionary struggles of the proletariat, thereby highlighting the importance for the proletariat once it has seized power to resolutely exercise its dictatorship over the exploiters so as to be able to consolidate its victories and provide democracy for the large majority of the working p eople.

This is the invaluable lesson the Paris Commune gave the world proletariat. Though the existence of the Commune itself was brief, it is nevertheless a lesson of profound importance in the ongoing struggle of the proletariat to build the new socialist society. In the preface to the 1872 edition of the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote: "One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made State machinery, and wield it for its own purposes. [...]"

The Paris Commune, which demonstrated in deeds what the dictatorship of the proletariat means, also provided lessons on the necessity to have a revolutionary political party of the proletariat to lead it through the complicated twists and turns of the class struggle, on the necessity to build and strengthen the worker-peasant alliance, and other invaluable lessons which were reconfirmed by the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 and the other revolutionary struggles of the proletariat.

Today, the importance of political parties that are capable of providing the class struggle of the working class and oppressed people with the orientation and leadership they require so as to have their own independent politics and provide the problems they and society face with solutions is in essence the same fight for which the Communards fought and blazed a trail with such great heroism. The example of the Paris Commune will forever inspire the working people everywhere who can never forget the invaluable lessons provided by the Communards, written in blood. The Paris Commune was indeed a glorious harbinger of the new society, which the working and oppressed people everywhere are striving to bring into being.

Article Index

Marking the 150th Anniversary of the Paris Commune

The Paris Commune and the Need for Political Power

On Saturday, March 20, the Truth and Memory Committee, based in South Tyneside, held an online meeting to mark the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune. The meeting was entitled The Paris Commune: Showing the Way Towards a New Society. The speakers and the discussion reflected the reality of this momentous event in the historical struggles of the working class and people when they took power and started to build the new state arrangements that gave power to the working people. A film montage of the Paris Commune was shown which was accompanied with a choral rendition of The Internationale in French and English. The discussion of the meeting concentrated on why the Paris Commune remains so relevant to the modern world where people are still marginalised from decision making power by the Westminster "parliamentary democracy" that serves the rich. Besides a short history of the Commune, two presentations were given, and we are reprinting below some of the points made in the talk entitled The Paris Commune and the Need for Political Power.

The speaker began by celebrating this historic anniversary saying that "what they established on March 18, 1871, was something entirely new and something that brought a new quality into being". She pointed out, "For the first time in human history the people took control and then established political power in Paris, an event which shook the world and stood as a beacon for future societies and political movements". Unlike anything that had happened before, where arrangements had been entered into to keep actual power within the hands of the elites, "what happened on March 18 was the establishment of a proletarian government and a proletarian state", which represented, as Marx boldly says in his writings on the Paris Commune, "a historic initiative".

The speaker pointed out that the Paris Commune became a touchstone for political movements across the world, including the Great October Socialist Revolution, and other revolutions and political change, and it still resonates today. The significance of the Paris Commune is that it established a new consciousness in the world that a people can rise up and establish their own state and completely throw out the ruling elites of the old order; that knowledge can never be erased.

The speaker asked how the Paris Commune resonates today, what lessons can be learned from it and what does it reveal. History is calling on us to recognise, not just to celebrate, what their experience says to us today.

The speaker compared the situation in France prior to the Paris Commune with the arrangements that had been put in place by Hobbes and Cromwell in England in 1649 where the ruling elites had sought to resolve the Civil War there by giving the illusion of empowering the people whilst actually putting in place arrangements to keep the decision making and political power in the hands of the elites. In other words, the various Republics and administrations that wielded power in France throughout the 1800s still represented forms of oppressive class rule by the ruling elites.

The speaker went into how, in Marx's words, in France the "full-grown bourgeois society had finally transformed into a means for the enslavement of labour by capital" with its extreme repression of the people and against the backdrop of the Franco-Prussian War being waged at the time, which ran for years. Marx wrote that "the direct antithesis to the empire was the Commune. The cry of 'social republic', with which the February Revolution was ushered in by the Paris proletariat, did but express a vague aspiration after a republic that was not only to supersede the monarchical form of class rule, but class rule itself. The Commune was the positive form of that republic."

What was key at the time and what enabled the success of the Paris Commune, was that its first act was to suppress the standing army and replace it with an army of the people which became known as the National Guard. The standing army had consisted mainly of working men who had been dragooned into fighting in the Franco-Prussian War. Those men stationed in Paris, itself a working-class hub, "had risen in arms against the attempt of Thiers and the Rurals to restore and perpetuate that old governmental power bequeathed to them by the empire", and had willingly joined the cause of the Commune.

The speaker read from Marx's report on the Paris Commune:

Working men's Paris with its Commune will be for ever celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society - Karl Marx to the International Working Men's Association, May 30th 1871.

On the dawn of March 18, Paris arose to the thunder-burst of "Vive la Commune!" What is the Commune, that sphinx so tantalising to the bourgeois mind?

"The proletarians of Paris," said the Central Committee in its manifesto of March 18, "amidst the failures and treasons of the ruling classes, have understood that the hour has struck for them to save the situation by taking into their own hands the direction of public affairs.... They have understood that it is their imperious duty, and their absolute right, to render themselves masters of their own destinies, by seizing upon the governmental power."

But the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes.

She further quoted from Marx:

The gigantic broom of the French Revolution of the 18th century swept away all these relics of bygone times, thus clearing simultaneously the social soil of its last hindrances to the superstructure of the modern state edifice raised under the First Empire, itself the offspring of the coalition wars of old semi-feudal Europe against modern France.

The speaker went on to draw comparisons with our society today where, "as regards the issue of the standing army, if you look at today's world, we have a parliament that right now is trying to increase police powers. We have a government which has just given itself billions of pounds in the middle of a pandemic when it is saying that it cannot increase the pay of health workers by more than one percent and that it cannot pay educationalists because it does not have the money, and yet it is paying itself billions to increase its nuclear capacity and to increase Britain's ability to intervene globally, which can only be to the detriment of peace, security and sovereignty". "Certainly," she said, "our standing army is not defending us."

Strikingly, the people of the Commune felt completely safe. Marx wrote:

Wonderful, indeed, was the change the Commune had wrought in Paris! No longer any trace of the meretricious Paris of the Second Empire! No longer was Paris the rendezvous of British landlords, Irish absentees, American ex-slaveholders and shoddy men, Russian ex-serfowners, and Wallachian boyards. No more corpses at the morgue, no nocturnal burglaries, scarcely any robberies; in fact, for the first time since the days of February 1848, the streets of Paris were safe, and that without any police of any kind.

"We," said a member of the Commune, "hear no longer of assassination, theft, and personal assault; it seems indeed as if the police had dragged along with it to Versailles all its Conservative friends."

Drawing attention to this new sense of relief and protection brought about by the Commune and the measures it put in place, the speaker emphasised how the role of women in the Commune was so crucial and uplifting. She quoted Marx's comment on the women of the Paris Commune in contrast to the bourgeois women then cowering in Versailles:

The cocottes ['chickens' - prostitutes] had refound the scent of their protectors - the absconding men of family, religion, and, above all, of property. In their stead, the real women of Paris showed again at the surface - heroic, noble, and devoted, like the women of antiquity. Working, thinking fighting, bleeding Paris - almost forgetful, in its incubation of a new society, of the Cannibals at its gates - radiant in the enthusiasm of its historic initiative!

And the women played an outstanding role. Only three weeks into the Paris Commune on April 11, 1871, the women of the Commune formed the Union of Women. The call was given that there was going to be a meeting, and posters were put up all over Paris calling on women to come and defend and be prepared to die for the Commune. They called on laundresses, on seamstresses, on bookbinders and on milliners to attend. Women responded to this call coming en masse from all over Paris. They then established a new organisation called the Union of Women.

The speaker described how within days of its formation, the Union became one of the most important organisations of the Paris Commune, with socialist women playing an indispensable role in organising the working women of Paris to become Communards. Women such as Louise Michel were outstanding fighters and are still celebrated today in France and across the world.

Following these comments, the speakers talked about today's circumstances. She said that "it is no small matter that here we are in 2021, and it is women who are on the streets across the entire world and who are speaking out and protesting because they do not feel protected. They feel vulnerable in their societies because our societies allow and even encourage attacks on women, often treating them as fair game." By contrast, "one of the things that Marx says about the Paris Commune, and one of its heroic features, was that the women took up arms and were active in the defence of the rights of all in the Commune, and in so doing, participated in ensuring that no one in the Commune felt vulnerable and that everyone was protected. Indeed, they felt empowered to walk the streets free from attack."

The speaker highlighted the experience of women right now here in Britain, where women are feeling vulnerable in our streets. However, she said that "the problem is not one of reprogramming men's heads. It is not about something "over there" and somehow done to us. Rather it is systemic and linked with the treatment of women as a collective. As such, it requires the participation of women in sorting out the problems as part of sorting out the problems of the whole society. It requires the recognition that the security of women lies in the fight for and defence of the rights of all!"

Online meeting poster

The speaker asserted that "what we see happening in the Paris Commune is that these rights were being established by men and women, and that what was being established as a consequence, and through the actions of all these bodies and discussions, was the establishment of the political power of the proletariat. This was what was so threatening to the bourgeoisie and to all powers and countries around the world; and that at all costs, they could not allow this to happen."

One of the important lessons of the Paris Commune today was one of empowerment. She said that "in the act of the birth of the Paris Commune was born this conception that the proletariat could and must take power to solve the problems of society and bring into being, as its historic duty, the new".

Indeed, it points to what we must do in today's world. "What has been given rise to is that we need to take up the example of the Paris Commune and to take a stand on what is going on, and to speak out in our own name. We need now to recognise what is necessary to be done at this time and what is being given rise to. We see that our governments and our societies are increasingly subduing the people, and that, under the guise of the current pandemic, they are trying to stop the voice of the people, even to stop the limited means accorded them through so-called representation in parliament, by suspending elections or limiting the participation of those who are allowed to comment in parliament."

She drew attention to the need for an Anti-War Government where the issues of the people can be brought to the fore and where, as with the Paris Commune, the people can bring an end to all foreign intervention and wars. Learning the lessons of the Paris Commune, we must fight to bring about the involvement of and to the empower people in decision-making and the control of their lives, and that the working class must constitute themselves the nation.

The talk concluded with a statement of Marx:

If the Commune was thus the true representative of all the healthy elements of French society, and therefore the truly national government, it was, at the same time, as a working men's government, as the bold champion of the emancipation of labour, emphatically international. Within sight of that Prussian army, that had annexed to Germany two French provinces, the Commune annexed to France the working people all over the world.

The Paris Commune represented the fight of the new against the old and brought a new quality into being. It demonstrated that the proletariat could establish something new against the claim of the old to its right to rule by force based on class privilege, wealth or birth. In so doing, the Paris Commune showed that it could be done whilst sowing the seed of an unstoppable idea that shone a light on the path to a new society.

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Celebrating International Women's Day

Online Meeting of Women on March 8

Outstanding woman fighter Louise Michel of the Montmartre Vigilance Committee, who was elected its president, thus occupying a leading role in the revolutionary government of the Paris Commune of 1871.

On March 8, an online meeting was held to mark International Women's Day, bringing together women from around Britain. It was a wonderfully uplifting event which affirmed the leading role that women have been playing and continue to play during this whole Covid-19 pandemic. Women throughout society have been leading the various struggles, in the political and social arenas, against social injustice, against war and warmongering, to defend the environment, and most notably in this past year, they have been fighting to defend and maintain the NHS, to protect the vulnerable and those in social care, and to fight for the education system and the arrangements needed to ensure that the wellbeing of the children and young people in the care of schools and further and higher education are safeguarded and the right to an education guaranteed.

The meeting affirmed that women have been and are continuing to fight to place the human being at the centre of all considerations, and have been speaking in their own name and taking a stand in defence of the rights of all. The meeting took a very militant stand alongside the peoples of the world fighting for democratic renewal and empowerment, and for the unblocking of the forward motion of society.

Delhi where on March 7, the day before the meeting took place, some 70,000 to 80,000 women were involved in an action to mark 100 days of the farmers' protest as well as the upcoming International Women's Day.

The online meeting heard a report on the recent mass demonstrations in Delhi where on March 7, the day before the meeting took place, some 70,000 to 80,000 women were involved in an action to mark 100 days of the farmers' protest as well as the upcoming International Women's Day. Women farmers from various districts of Punjab, including Bathinda, Barnala, Mansa, and Patiala, marched in their thousands to the borders of Delhi. The event was entirely organised and carried out by the women.

The meeting also heard about the stand that women are taking in Tigray and Northern Ethiopia where they are exposing the Ethiopian government's use of rape as a weapon of war. The meeting affirmed that it stands shoulder to shoulder with the Ethiopian and Eritrean women who have been organising to condemn such heinous acts and such co-ordinated violence against women.

The more formal side of the meeting was concluded by a performance of a recently-written solo violin work dedicated to the NHS entitled "Thank you NHS!" which was expertly played by a participant in the meeting. The atmosphere throughout was positive and determined and very friendly, and it concluded by affirming the conviction that women's security lies in the fight for the rights of all!

Long Live International Women's Day!

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Anniversary of RCPB(ML)

Letter of Greetings to RCPB(ML) on its 42nd Anniversary from CPC(ML)

March 16, 2021

Michael Chant
General Secretary
Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

Dear Comrade:

The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) sends you militant revolutionary greetings on the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the founding of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist). For forty-two years and before, the communists in England, Scotland and Wales have shared weal and woe with the working class, upholding the fighting traditions of the Chartists before them and of the brave women who have always been at the forefront of the struggle for rights and the well-being of the people.

They have shown the mettle they are made of in the fight against state-organised racist attacks and covert actions, for the liberation of Ireland and against colonial and neo-colonial rule and injustice in Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean, as well as against preparations for imperialist war and warmongering. Most importantly, guided by Contemporary Marxist-Leninist Thought, the RCPB(ML) actively participates in sorting out the problems of party-building in a moribund capitalist country mired in crisis as a result of defunct liberal democratic institutions which no longer answer to the needs of the times. The ruling class's conception of freedom is to have consumer choice and electoral choice while maintaining a fictitious person of state which keeps everyone as subjects, not citizens with equal membership rights. By wielding the sword and bishop staff the ruling class enforces the anachronistic conception of decision-making power it stands for.

Only through their control over the use of force and what constitutes crime and punishment and instruments of disinformation can they compel the people to bear the burden of the most anachronistic institutions - both those which are medieval such as the monarchy and all its abhorrent trappings, and those which are modern such as the dysfunctional system of cartel party government, the police powers of the current ruling caste, its stock exchange, financial markets and international cartels, coalitions and aggressive alliances such as NATO.

Over the years since its founding, the Party has built itself in the course of providing solutions to the problems of society. On this occasion we confidently say that the RCPB(ML) is sure to continue providing vitality to the striving of the working class and people in Britain for peace, democracy and freedom.

Long Live RCPB(ML)!
Long Live the Unity between CPC(ML) and RCPB(ML)!

Anna Di Carlo
National Leader
Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist)

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Anniversary of RCPB(ML)

Congratulatory Letter from the Workers' Party of Korea to RCPB(ML)

March 15, Juche 110 (2021)

To: Central Committee

Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

The Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea is honoured to extend its comradely greetings and send this congratulatory letter to the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and entire Party members on the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the founding of the Party on March 16, 1979.

Our Party highly appreciates that the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) has been struggling to strengthen the Party and defend the rights and interests of the working people for the past 42 years since the Party foundation.

The Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea expresses its conviction that good friendly relations of co-operation between the two parties will continue to be further developed in the future.

Taking this opportunity, we again wish you greater success in your activities to consolidate and develop the Party.

Respectfully yours.

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Workers' Forum

Electricians Fight for their Dignity and Rights

Electricians protest at the London EDF offices. Photo: Isai Priya

Electricians have been organising themselves in resistance to the latest attempt to deskill their role in the construction industry. In particular, employers at the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station construction site have reversed an agreement to employ 500 electrical apprentices and have instead begun to enact plans to employ new grades of "Electrical Support Operative" at the construction site, without any consultation. The power station, on which £23 billion has so far been spent, is due to open in June 2026, and is owned by EDF Energy [1]. On February 24, electricians staged a protest at the EDF Energy offices and said they would, if necessary, blockade the Somerset power station site.

In an effort to manipulate, EDF have attempted to spin their programme of deskilling as part of its agreement with "its trades union partners" to in fact "develop UK skills and training, including a commitment to create 1,000 new apprenticeships". The electricians tell a different story. Speaking from their own experience, they know the real needs and training requirements, having nurtured apprentices over many years while facing the cuts made by government and employers over time. There were long and crucial negotiations made in the past with the Joint Industrial Board for recognised training schemes in order to qualify as an electrician.

Turning truth on its head, a company spokesperson said: "This progressive approach has been developed to maximise employment opportunities for local people and to help them develop new skills. It is backed by a major investment in training facilities to help new entrants start their careers in construction. Productive talks are now taking place to reach agreement on the curriculum of the new training courses." The reality is that the plans were imposed. Such talk, while throwing a few crumbs to placate opposition, is aimed at painting the workers as standing against the needs of society, at blocking their "progressive approach".

After the protests, it was announced at the beginning of March that EDF has suspended the deskilling plans at Hinkley Point C. That particular struggle is but one example, however, of a general industry-wide attempt to impose the new semi-skilled grades on construction and infrastructure projects. The grades have been introduced by employers with the assistance of the Engineering Construction Training Board, a government body, who have officially created the grades together with short training courses for them, which amounts to creating a new layer of semi-skilled section of electrical workers in the industry.

Electricians want the grades, which undermine their role, scrapped decisively, and have been continuing to organise their opposition, such as a demonstration on March 10 at infrastructure giant Balfour Beatty's headquarters in London, and other actions around the country.

A series of online meetings of the Unite union Electrical and Mechanical Combine (EMC) and the electricians' rank and file group have been held, where electricians and trade unionists have been discussing and speaking out against the new grades.

The traditional method of training of installation electricians and engineers involves technical education and training to a high level along with quality apprenticeships. The reason for such high standards is the nature of the work, involving high competences in health and safety and appreciation of the engineering and technical science. The new grades of unskilled and semi-skilled labour are set to carry out aspects of work traditionally performed by electricians and mates, such as installing cable trays.

Hinkley Point C nuclear power station construction site - Photo: Press Association

"The undermining of the role of the Electrician has been attempted for more than 30 years, most recently in 2011/12, when eight of the major mechanical and electrical construction companies promoted the use of non-electrical personnel to carry out skilled electrical tasks under the so called BESNA agreement," said Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey. BESNA was the last major attempt to change grades in the sector, which were abandoned by employers following a concerted campaign by workers. Electricians had then protested, occupied and struck work for six months.

"For over 30 years we have had to endure the deskilling agenda of major electrical contractors. Each time we have responded and each time these companies have been forced into retreat. But they keep coming back but we will not go away," he said.

"Our message to the industry is clear. Unite and its electrical membership will oppose any and all efforts to weaken the skill set of the trade which will undermine the industry by introducing non-skilled operatives," said Unite in a statement. "Any deskilling of electricians would result in a race to the bottom and would be highly damaging to industrial relations across the sector."

The union is right to point to relations. Economically, the intention is to increase the rate of return through employing lower-paid sections and reduce the supervision of electricians, in some cases doing away with electricians altogether. Deskilling is also about undermining the ability of electricians to have any degree of control over their lives and conditions, and serves the interests of the owners, who desire increasingly total control in their social relation with the workers they employ.

Further, once the construction of a plant such as Hinkley Point C is completed, it is by and large electricians and other engineers that actually run operations, including management and supervision. Undermining the role of the electrician and electrical engineer in general also encroaches on this aspect of control.

Capital-centred, rather than human-centred, production places private monopoly interests above workers' rights. The owners of the means of production restructure labour in their interests. The interests of workers depend in part on upholding the dignity of their work, which includes maintaining standards. This dignity is undermined by deskilling and forced division of labour, which is part of depriving workers of any role in determining their conditions, and in general marginalises them.

Speaking in the workers' own name and asserting their will is certainly not what the owners of capital like. Electricians have always organised and asserted their collective voice. Employers have always tried to stifle them. Many electricians' leaders in the past have been victimised and labelled as extremist and illegally blacklisted. Even to this day, shop stewards are victimised. If employers "blacklist" a worker, they recommend that other organisations from the same industry do not hire that worker. This acts to suppress electricians' political voice. The employers are prepared to destroy an effective productive force, remove skills, providing they maintain control of what remains, causing permanent losses in the skill base as a result.

Electricians should have control over their lives and conditions. This also extends to the economy itself, in which the large infrastructure they along with others build, run and maintain, play a crucial role. Industrial and domestic energy supply, for example, are massive factors in the production of value in the economy; the method of producing energy and the use to which it is put are centrally important to the direction of the economy.

The path to resolving of the issue of control can only be found by a fundamental change in that direction. Far from it being the case that electricians are standing against the "progressive approach" of the global monopolies and the states that represent them, it is only workers who are able to set the aims of and take up a project for the building of society, whose interests are at one with the general interests of society.

1. EDF Energy is the British subsidiary of Électricité de France (EDF). EDF, 84.5% French state-owned, is the largest electricity producer in the world. They have contracted the building of the power station to the MEH Joint Venture, formed in 2018 by the monopoly groups Altrad, Balfour Beatty Bailey (itself a joint venture between Balfour Beatty and NG Bailey), Cavendish Nuclear and Doosan Babcock.

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Workers' Strike Struggles

DVLA workers in Swansea to strike over Covid safety

Workers at the Driving Vehicle Licensing Association (DVLA) contact centre in the Clase area of Swansea have voted for strike action after insufficient action by management to deal with an ongoing Covid-19 outbreak. The outbreak was first declared in December last year, when 352 people had tested positive since September. Regardless of this official recognition, this number had inflated to over 500 by the end of January. On a turnout of 50%, members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) backed strikes by 72% over what the union has labelled "the worst Covid workplace outbreak" in Britain.

The DVLA has attempted to excuse itself by stating that it has been following the guidance of the Welsh Government at "every single point throughout the pandemic". Defending the government and the management in January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed that officials had been "working flat-out" to test employees at the site.

The fact is that over 6,000 people work at the 16-floor building, and even during the outbreak, it has been staffed by 2,000 workers every day. PCS is demanding that this be reduced to the level of a few hundred at most. The union is further demanding that all vulnerable workers be sent home, and given paid leave if unable to work from home.

"Our members have sent a loud and clear message that they are not safe at their place of work," said PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka. "The strength of feeling amongst staff comes as no surprise, given the management's disregard for the safety of their workers. Our members have been forced into this position and industrial action will take place unless management immediately implements all necessary changes to ensure staff are safe at work."

The DVLA are continuing to coerce and pressure workers into giving up their action, asserting that the stand taken by the workers is not in the interests of society. "Any industrial action is likely to have a detrimental impact on motorists as we begin the first stages of the road map out of lockdown and the UK vaccination rollout programme is in full swing," claimed the management.

Workers are rejecting any such pressure to silence them from speaking out and acting to defend their interests and the rights of all. Essentially, the management and the government are claiming that some kind of balance needs to be struck between the health of these workers and the wider interests, as if these were opposed. It is by now abundantly clear that that workplaces are a key factor in controlling the spread of Covid-19. Staffing an office with 2,000 people is a clear attempt to shut their eyes to the current crisis and continue as far as possible with business as usual. But there is no "balance" in dealing with the virus, and there can be no "business as usual" - this amounts to a plain disregard for health and safety.

It is crucial that society and the economy mobilise to protect the health of every individual - in so doing, they will protect the health of all. Further, working conditions should be determined by the workers who work in them. Workers should be central to decision-making.

Aerospace workers on strike over fire-and-rehire imposition

Around 200 workers at SPS Technologies, which supplies parts for the aerospace industry, have been striking over a punishing cut to pay and conditions being imposed by a fire-and-rehire contract change. Cuts in sick pay and pay for overtime and breaks, as well as shift premiums, amount to a loss in the region of £2,500 to £3,000 per person employed at the SPS Barkby Road site. Taking a stand against this imposition, which has attempted to marginalise their collective voice completely, the workers, members of union Unite, took action over the plans, with 24-hour strikes on March 12, 19, 22 and 26.

Fire and rehire - the unilateral tearing-up of employment contracts and rehiring on new, invariably inferior, terms - is an organised offensive by employers to restructure workplace arrangements. Employers are increasingly polarising the social relation in which they stand with workers, exacerbating the prevailing disequilibrium for self-serving ends. Employers have been using the pandemic in particular to serve their competitive and profit-driven private interests.

Unite regional officer Lakhy Mahal said: "Our members are incandescent at SPS's fire and rehire threats, particularly in light of their hard work keeping the company operational during the pandemic. It is shameful that SPS is using this terrible virus as an opportunity to attack its workers' terms and conditions.

"These penury-inducing cuts would see workers lose between £2,500 and £3,000 a year for performing the same amount of work. If implemented, much of the workforce will be forced to take up pay day loans and second jobs simply to get by.

"SPS's leadership should realise that this dispute will continue to escalate until an offer is put forward that our members can accept.

"Unite's door is always open and SPS can prevent the serious disruption these strikes will cause to the company's operations and reputation by returning to the negotiating table with a serious offer."

Workers are calling a halt to the increasing polarisation of the relation with their employers, which is upsetting their lives and conditions. They demand an end to imposition. To resolve this, so that workers have control over these important matters, requires a fundamental change in the direction of the economy. It requires that working people constitute a new kind of authority where they speak in their own name and set the terms in establishing an equilibrium in their favour and in favour of society.

BT workers balloting for strike action

Communications workers at BT, including OpenReach and EE, are being balloted for what would be the first national strike action at the company since 1987. Aiming to consolidate its currently hundreds of locations into just 30 sites, BT is to make compulsory redundancies and recontract those employees it retains. Their union, the CWU, has described the move as "an unprecedented and sustained assault on job security and hard-won terms and conditions". It has also pointed to management's "belligerent" stance, unwilling to "negotiate meaningfully" and "pursuing a brutal and needlessly confrontational agenda".

CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said: "Even by the most basic standards of how a big employer like BT should be treating its workforce the company's actions have been completely unacceptable. It's quite clear management's plans are all about compulsory redundancies, attacking terms and conditions and carrying out site closures without any consultation with the union or the workforce."

"We didn't pick this fight. In fact, we've provided management with every possible opportunity to step back from the brink, consistently offering to work in partnership with the business to address whatever challenges it faces - just as we've done on numerous occasions over the decades since privatisation," said Deputy General Secretary Andy Kerr. "What we're not prepared to accept, however, is seeing members' cherished job security and terms and conditions being attacked on multiple fronts, with longstanding colleagues being picked off one by one... If BT don't want us to ballot then they can have us back round the negotiating table just as soon as they want. Our door is still open, and we want to resolve this dispute, but this will require a huge shift in attitude from the company. At this point in time that doesn't look as if it's going to happen - and that's why we're gearing up to fight."

Once again, workers' rights, such as the right to a livelihood, are being violated by a big monopoly. Workers are demanding their right to decide and control their conditions. The workers are stating loud and clear, reinforced by their collective action, that they will not stand idly by and allow this imposition.

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