Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 51 Number 15, May 1, 2021 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Lifting Society Out of its Crisis and Leaving the Old World Behind

On May Day 2021: Fight for the Rights of All! Fight for the Alternative! Fight for Empowerment!

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

Lifting Society Out of its Crisis and Leaving the Old World Behind:
On May Day 2021: Fight for the Rights of All! Fight for the Alternative! Fight for Empowerment!

Workers' Memorial Day:
Our Safety and Security Lies in Our Fight for the Rights of All!

New guidance on NHS imaging services:
New Move to Create "Significant Operation Businesses in Their Own Right" Out of NHS Imaging Services

Jaguar and BMW:
Car Industry Shutdowns Due to Crisis in Chip Supply

Lifting Society Out of its Crisis and Leaving the Old World Behind

On May Day 2021: Fight for the Rights of All! Fight for the Alternative! Fight for Empowerment!

RCPB(ML) banner at the London May Day

RCPB(ML) sends its militant May Day greetings to working people throughout the world. May First is the day of international working class unity, the day of expressing our common cause in the struggle to bring about a world without war, without the use of force to settle conflicts, without the exploitation of persons by persons, with the recognition of the rights of all by virtue of being human, and providing these rights with a guarantee. This is the new world which requires effort and vision to bring into being, a world which is not simply replacing one government by another, one ruling elite by another, or even one class by another. It is a world where the rights of the individual are inseparably linked with the rights of all, not in contradiction with them. It is a world where all participate in deciding, in being in control of, their own future, where society is organised for the benefit of human beings, not the private interests that ride roughshod of the rights of human be ings.

May Day 2021 is the second May Day taking place in the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis of this pandemic has been exacerbating the economic and political crisis characterised by paying the rich and cutting investments in social programmes. The solution, pointed to by the working people's own experience, that it has encouraged the working class to take up is that of speaking in their own name, not to return to the old normal, but to implement its own programme and agenda. This is a programme around which all can unite, to change the direction of the economy, to put human beings at the centre of all considerations. In this situation, we extend especial greetings to the peoples of the countries who have been bringing Covid-19 under control and exhibiting international responsibility, such as Cuba, the DPRK, Vietnam, China and others.

The pandemic has brought home that working people's safety and security lies nowhere else but in the fight for the rights of all. The experience with battling Covid-19 has demonstrated how crucial it is for the working class to act on its own initiative, with its own independent programme, a programme for empowerment and for a state with a modern democratic personality. If it was not obvious before, now it is crystal clear that society must be organised with the principle that all human life is precious, where health, education and other public services are rights, where claims on society mean something. In this context, there is an urgent need for an anti-war government. This is not a mere question of policy, but of democracy itself. It is part and parcel of the need for pro-social governance in general, governance with the guaranteeing of the rights of all as its central aim. This is the alternative around which the fight must be strengthened and unity built, beginning with the immediate programme: Stop Paying the Rich! Increase Investments in Social Programmes! Fight for an Anti-War Government!

The struggle of workers for their rights which has been unfolding has confirmed that, far from the struggles being based on special interests or for certain privileges, the rights which are being fought for must be available to all, not grudgingly granted kicking and screaming at the whim of ruling elites who serve narrow private interests. The conviction of working people with over a year's experience of the coronavirus pandemic is that the old "normal" is not acceptable, and that a new "normal" must be found.

The situation is bringing to the fore that what is lacking is for the working class to be empowered at all levels of society, having fidelity to the conception that turning this situation around means to bring into being a society without war, with proletarian internationalism, where the social wealth produced by the working class is put to use for the benefit of ordinary people, the producers. The right to a livelihood must be guaranteed, and workers empowered to have control over their lives. To empower itself, the working class needs its own agenda and line of march, its own independent programme. Workers are taking up the task of discussing in their organisations their demands and claims on society, taking up action with analysis as one. Working people must be the ones who determine what must be done. The necessity which is coming to the fore is for the workers to build their own forums where they can discuss how issues pose themselves and how to be effective in securing their rights.

As RCPB(ML) declared in opening the new millennium, the watchword of the workers is that the banner of the emancipation of the working class is the banner for all of humanity in the forward march to create the new world. The conditions are demanding that the working class take up its historic role to lead all working people in action to fight for their own rights in a manner which upholds the rights of all. The working class will organise the economy with the aim of guaranteeing a livelihood to all as a human right on the basis of the most advanced techniques and the continuous raising of standards of living. The working class will establish a political system of direct democracy, in which the people select and elect candidates and will establish a modern constitution in the course of their struggles which enshrines the sovereignty of the people as the decision-makers in society. The working class will uphold the independence and sovereignty of nations and peoples, establish modern sovereign states of England, Scotland and Wales, and unite to oppose all chauvinist attempts at intervention and interference, and support the right of all countries for equality internationally. The working class fights shoulder to shoulder with its class sisters and brothers of all lands for this new society. The producers of the social wealth must take hold of what belongs to them.

Once more, militant May Day greetings to all working people in every country striving to bring into being that world of socialised humanity which is the dawn of human history itself.

Fight for the Rights of All! Fight for the Alternative! Fight for Empowerment! Workers of All Countries, Unite!

Article Index

Workers' Memorial Day

Our Safety and Security Lies in Our Fight for the Rights of All!

April 28 marked the annual International Workers' Memorial Day for workers killed, disabled, injured, or made ill through their conditions of work. Workers' Memorial Day is a day when workers across the world, their trade unions and other fighting organisations, participate in ceremonies and meetings and observe a moment of silence to mourn the dead and fight for the rights, safety and well-being of the living. The day also expresses the demand for compensation and treatment for the consequences of poor working conditions.

Workers' Memorial Day came this year, just as it did a year ago, at a very difficult time for the working class and people. Over the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has added to the deaths of front-line workers in hospitals, communities, care homes, transport, as well as all those workers who ensured that society did not come to a complete standstill.

We express our deepest sympathies to the families of those essential workers who have lost their lives while performing their duties without adequate protection. Those working in elementary occupations, workers employed as process, plant and machine operatives, and health, care and leisure service workers have all suffered significantly higher rates of illness and death than the average population.

Memorial Plaque in Hamstead Village. Twenty-five miners were trapped when fire broke out at Birmingham's Hamstead Colliery on March 4, 1908. In the hours and days that followed, as families gathered frantic for news at the pithead, desperate attempts were made to reach the men, in the course of which one of the rescuers tragically lost his life, too.

Notwithstanding certain measures such as the furlough scheme, the approach of the government has been characterised in essence as making everything an individual matter and fending for oneself. In that regard, a particular concern has been widespread mental health problems resulting from living and working through the pandemic. The government has let private interests and itself off the hook over the responsibility to ensure safety. Ventilation, social distancing and supply of protective equipment have not been up to the required standard. This, and the lack of a properly functioning mass testing and tracing programme, has exposed the disregard for workers, particularly those in health and social care and the patients and others they worked to protect.

Despite the heroic efforts of workers to turn the situation around in the favour of the people, what has been further revealed is the outdated and unacceptable arrangements of society with no proper command over human resources, public provision and manufacturing infrastructure to supply the vital services and equipment that should always be on hand to protect society.

Measures have instead been imposed aimed at profit-making, where workers' interests and those of small business are dealt with only insofar as they affect the interests of the ruling elite and their capital-centred direction for the economy. Old arrangements continue to undermine the very lives and safety of everyone working in and living in our communities.

How can injuries, sickness and death be prevented? They can only be prevented when workers have control over their conditions, their lives and livelihoods. Accidents and disease can be prevented by making sure the workers are put in charge of the conditions and preventative safety measures they require at work. Furthermore, sick pay and industrial injury compensation systems must properly and adequately compensate workers and their families.

Workers have the right to participate in decisions that affect their health and safety. They have the right to refuse work that could endanger their health and safety or that of others. Any attempt to intimidate or criminalise workers for exercising this right should be dealt with severely as should the wilful neglect of workers' health and safety by governments and employers.

So once again, on Workers Memorial Day on April 28, we observe a moment of silence to mourn the dead and fight for the rights of all the living, their safety and well-being, and discuss the practical steps required to resolve the crisis in favour of the working people.

Silence is a mark of respect. International Workers' Memorial Day is also an occasion marked by workers in speaking in their own name. The working class and people cannot hand over their trust to those who claim to speak, represent, or govern in their name. The working class and people must take up the fight for new arrangements that guarantee their interests and their right to decide on a safe human-centred system of health care. Fight for a future where the working class and people decide how the economy is organised, how things are done, and what they need to serve the interests of everyone in society! Our safety and security lies in our fight for the rights of all.

Defend workers' rights! Defend the rights of all! One death is one too many!

Article Index

New guidance on NHS imaging services

New Move to Create "Significant Operation Businesses in Their Own Right" Out of NHS Imaging Services

On April 22, NHS England released new guidance on government plans for NHS imaging services [1] in England. This is part of the long-term plan confirmed by Matt Hancock in the government's White Paper on "the future of health and care" entitled "Integration and Innovation: Working together to improve health and social care for all". The guidance was issued in three documents [2], the "Diagnostic imaging network implementation guide", the "Diagnostic imaging network capital equipment planning guide" and the "Diagnostic imaging network commercial structure and operational governance guide". The guidance gives trusts "until 2023" to set up diagnostic networks which will have their "own distinct leadership [and] governance arrangements" and will be responsible for asset management, financing, quality, staffing and location of all elective and non-elective imaging across England.

In one of the few reports commenting on the release of this guidance, an article for subscribers in the Health Service Journal (HSJ) [3] pointed out that the stated aim was new diagnostic imaging networks that "will be of such scale that they will be 'significant operation businesses in their own right' and will 'need a distinct identity and arm's length separation from the trusts'." In the guidance, NHS England has outlined seven models that the new imaging networks can take, but clearly promotes the preferred model of "outsourcing the service in its entirety, including ownership of the capital assets required for delivery of the service, to a commercial partner". The other options are "collaboration or alliance contracting", both of which the guidance says offer "poor autonomy" because decisions must be approved by all trusts! The use of a "host trust" involves using delegated authority from other network members to make decisions, two joint venture models, or a community interest company. All three would need HMRC approval for VAT exemption and are only suitable for foundation trusts. Whilst the guidance does admit that there are "disadvantages" to outsourcing, which it admits include "the loss of direct control of operations", its main thrust is to detach all imaging services from NHS Trusts and organisations and set up yet another separate organisation with its own management and governance arrangements.

The proposal is that instead of providing imaging services at local hospitals the new imaging "hubs" will now be further separated from most local hospitals, increasing the difficulty of patients accessing these diagnostic services both routinely and in an emergency. This continues the present pattern of the direction of the "long-term plan" of claiming to make care "more accessible to the communities" whilst actually making it harder for communities to access services and increasing the inequality of access by poorer communities that have low car ownership and cost and mobility difficulties.

In other words, far from being "integration and innovation" and "working together to improve health and social care for all" as the government's White Paper claims, this guidance is one of the latest examples of how the government and NHS England intend to break up the NHS. In particular, this example demonstrates how the government is intent on making the most profitable sectors available to the private health corporations without the inconvenience of having to provide the services to each and every hospital and community. It further reveals the capital-centred direction at the heart of NHS England's government-led "long-term plan", of which the White Paper is a part [4].

This plan is a continuation of the capital-centred direction of previous plans that, for example, passed direct control for NHS elderly care and social services from from the public sector to the private owners of social wealth in the 1990s. It is this capital-centred direction that intensifies the crisis in the NHS as services are privatised, because the new value to society that is created by health and social care workers, those that build hospitals and produce the medical equipment and medicines, and so on, is claimed by the private owners of social wealth. As a result, the social wealth available that the government needs to meet the needs of all for health care and the general interests of society is increasingly diminished by this direction for the economy. This is why in the United States where the health service is almost completely privatised, on the one hand the US government and US states spend almost twice as much per GDP than any other developed country on health care, yet on the other hand some tens of millions people have no access to health care at all, and the rest of the population has to pay punitive sums to private insurance corporations [5].

What is needed is a new direction for health and social care where health staff and people in the communities they serve are empowered to directly speak about their needs and participate in making the decisions. Health care is a claim the people must make on society. Placing the imaging service under the control of private interests must be opposed. It must be publicly provided as part of a human-centred health and social care system operating at the highest level accessible to all in their hospitals and communities.

1.Imaging services for medical purposes involves a team which includes the service of radiologists, radiographers (X-ray technologists), sonographers (ultrasound technologists), medical physicists, nurses, biomedical engineers, and other support staff working together to optimise the wellbeing of patients, one at a time. Appropriate use of medical imaging requires a multidisciplinary approach. (Source WHO)
2. The "Diagnostic imaging network implementation guide", the "Diagnostic imaging network capital equipment planning guide" and the "Diagnostic imaging network commercial structure and operational governance guide". April 22, 2021
3. "Commercial partners" could take over "entirety" of planned imaging networks - Sharon Bremen, April 23, 2021
4. "Continuing the Wrong Direction for a System of Health and Social Care" - Workers' Weekly, February 27, 2021
5. US Health Care from a Global Perspective, 2019: Higher Spending, Worse Outcomes?

Article Index

Jaguar and BMW

Car Industry Shutdowns Due to Crisis in Chip Supply

A shortage in computer chips is having a serious impact on other sectors, particularly the car industry. Jaguar last week suspended production, and BMW stopped producing the Mini for three days from Friday. This has been happening across the industry globally, and has been affecting other goods such as mobile phones and computers.

As recently as January, workers at JLR were forced to move from Castle Bromwich to Solihull in Birmingham to cover shortfalls in production [1]. Then on April 22, the company announced that operations at the Castle Bromwich and Halewood (Liverpool) sites would be affected from Monday, April 26, initially for a week.

JLR is Britain's largest car manufacturer employing 40,000 people. It remains unclear how long the stoppages would last, though management insisted production at the Solihull plant would continue. Tata Jaguar said in a statement:

"Like other automotive manufacturers, we are currently experiencing some Covid-19 supply chain disruption, including the global availability of semi-conductors, which is having an impact on our production schedules and our ability to meet global demand for some of our vehicles".

Globally, chip manufacture consists of a monopolised supply chain that runs from design taking place in the US, silicon wafer production in Japan and Korea, and final fabrication concentrated in Taiwan and Malaysia - Photo: Sky News

"We have adjusted production schedules for certain vehicles which means that our Castle Bromwich and Halewood manufacturing plants will be operating a limited period of non-production from Monday, April 26," said the company.

Likewise, a spokesperson for BMW Oxford said: "As a result of the global availability of semiconductor components, Plant Oxford has stood down three days of production. We are monitoring the situation very closely and are in constant communication with our associates and suppliers."

The BMW Cowley plant in Oxford employs 4,500 people and has been producing 5,000 cars a week. It will be suspended for three working days over six calendar days (Friday April 30 and Tuesday and Wednesday after the bank holiday weekend). As if workers at the site owe the company for the downtime, they will be placed into a working-hours debt under the Working Time Account (WTA) system, which they will have to work back in overtime in order to receive pay to cover the shutdown.

The shortage of chips has been triggered by unplanned-for drops and surges in demand for chips during the Covid pandemic (due, for example, to the closure and reopening of industrial production combined with the shift to home-working requiring computers), which has disrupted supply chains. The car industry's reliance on just-in-time production techniques has made it especially vulnerable.

Globally, chip manufacture consists of a monopolised supply chain that runs from design taking place in the US, silicon wafer production in Japan and Korea, and final fabrication concentrated in Taiwan and Malaysia. However, the manufacturing equipment is itself developed in the US [2]. This delicately balanced supply chain has been thrown out of kilter over the past year, exposing its fragility. In addition, tight profit margins in the semiconductor industry have meant that firms have been reluctant to produce any surplus product.

Such a global system controlled by a small number of oligopolies and big powers such as the US, where most countries have extremely limited or zero capacity to produce chips, is a source of disparity under increasing tension as chips become ever-more ubiquitous. It is also inherently weak as rival oligopoly and associated geopolitical interests vie to control this global supply chain. In particular, the US seeks to block China from becoming freed from this chain or becoming a major force within in it in its own right.

A further significant factor is the domination of chip design by US imperialism and the stranglehold of intellectual property by the oligarchs. The monopolies need to be deprived of their assumed right to deprive the world of scientific advances, allowing the spread of technological development for the benefit of all.

Chip manufacture is a crucial element in a modern socialised economy. They are such an important component in modern devices and appliances that whole sectors of the economies of countries are now dependent on the state of chip production.

In order to build a society that has a degree of control over its economy, the supply of chips has to be guaranteed. Chip manufacture is a foundation industry, and serves other foundation industries that in turn depend on it. Chip manufacture therefore needs investment, while the current situation speaks of its neglect. The direction of the economy must change to support investment in such foundation industries.

Ideally, a modern socialised economy that has a degree of self-reliance would have the capacity to design and manufacture its own chips. Even if there is not that capacity, and an economy has to rely on the global monopolised supply chain, then there is a critical need for contingency planning. What has been revealed is a lack of any stockpiling because of just-in-time techniques. These techniques are employed in the interests of profit-making, rather than a means of achieving efficiency in interests of society. As currently used, these methods have been proven time and again over the past year as being extremely fragile. The fragility of current industrial practices, due to the capital-centred direction of the economy, has been exposed as a major problem.

The workers at Jaguar, BMW and elsewhere should demand that management takes measures to ensure that their production is not fragile in this way. As things stand, they are using the workers to absorb the risk by having these shutdowns and potentially worse. That is not acceptable. Workers should demand that risk is absorbed through proper contingency planning, even if that has an impact on profit margins. Concessions are not solutions, and workers should not be made to pay through loss of earnings or increased overtime via WTA or any other such arrangements.

Further, workers should have a general outlook on the economy from their own independent perspective, and they should be the ones to decide how to ensure its robustness. They should take up the project of building a robust socialised economy, which is not subject to the vagaries and contingencies of the global monopolised supply chain.

1. “Conditions of Workers Under Threat from Owners of Tata Jaguar”, Workers’ Weekly, January 30, 2021
2. “Jaguar Land Rover to suspend work at UK plants amid computer chip shortage”, The Guardian, April 22, 2021

Article Index

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