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No to the Danger of War Posed by NATO!
Britain Out of NATO! Dismantle NATO!

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

No to the Danger of War Posed by NATO! Britain Out of NATO! Dismantle NATO!

Necessity for an Anti-War Government:
US and Britain Step Up War Preparations and NATO Extends Its Reach to Asia Pacific

The Group of Seven (G7):
Widescale Opposition to G7 Leaders' Summit

Safeguarding the Future of the Health Service:
Petition No to the Downgrading of South Tyneside Hospital Presented to Parliament

The steel crisis:
A Matter of Serious Concern for the Workers

Workers' Forum:
DVLA Workers Back on Strike over Covid Safety

Friends of Korea:
International Webinar Discusses Present Situation and Developments in DPRK

No to the Danger of War Posed by NATO!
Britain Out of NATO! Dismantle NATO!

Protests against the NATO summit in Brussels. Photo: JS Forrest

The 2021 summit of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, took place at its headquarters in Brussels on June 14, bringing together the heads of state and government of its 30 member countries. Such summits, according to NATO, are held at important junctures in its decision-making process, to address issues "of overarching political or strategic importance". The last summit was held in July 2018. In the recent period, the US imperialists who dominate the alliance have sought to provide an ongoing justification for NATO's existence as an instrument to advance their aims in the new conditions. The main focus of this summit was said to be "NATO 2030". Under "NATO 2030" NATO is seeking to further militarise all aspects of society and impose the US imperialist agenda on the world's people.

In summing up Britain's participation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons: "The surest guarantee of our security is NATO, which protects a billion people in 30 countries, and the summit in Brussels on Monday agreed the wholesale modernisation of the alliance to meet new dangers, including in space and cyberspace, reflecting the priorities of our own Integrated Review of foreign and defence policy. Britain has the biggest defence budget in Europe, comfortably exceeding the NATO target of 2 percent of national income."

At a time when the US claims that China and Russia pose a threat to global stability, NATO is using these countries as the pretext to demand increased war funding from member governments. Britain itself has also been strengthening its security arrangements with Japan, Brunei and the former colonial states in Southeast Asia and the Western-Pacific, while France is using its overseas territories (Mayotte, La Réunion, New Caledonia and French Polynesia) to claim legitimacy for expanding its military presence, territorial and sovereignty claims in the Indo-Pacific. No sooner was President Biden inaugurated than he began stepping up US war preparations against China. Apart from trying to ingratiate himself with US President Biden, Boris Johnson's words show the danger of war posed by NATO, and the military exercises that Britain is involved with show the threat of war from NATO powers.

At the Summit, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had emphasised that NATO 2030 is about enhancing NATO's role in preserving the so-called rules-based international order, which is said to be challenged by authoritarian regimes, like Russia and China. But who is threatening who? What is this "rules-based international order" in which it is US imperialism who make the rules? The political leaders gathered for the NATO Summit on June 14 were preparing for war. NATO speaks less and less about the need to uphold international law and the rule of law, referring instead to the need to defend and preserve this "rules-based international order". The
Watch back: No to War No to NATO Conference:
fraud of what is referred to as a "rules-based international order" is that there are those who control the rules and exercise their own discretion about what must be done to follow the rules and what the punishments are for failure to abide by them. When the US and NATO give themselves the right to enforce the rules they make and impose on oth er countries, typically through coercive measures up to and including military intervention to remove their governments, they are acting in contempt of international law. Defence of the rules-based international order that NATO has made the centrepiece of its mission is the antithesis of the rule of law and amounts to nothing more than "might makes right".

Boris Johnson had told Parliament: "We do more for the security of our continent than any other European power, showing that we mean it when we say that an attack on any NATO ally shall be considered an attack on all, a pledge that has kept the peace for over 70 years."

NATO has never worked to preserve peace and security for the peoples of Europe, but rather to establish political and military structures which would not permit people's empowerment. Its participation in at least three US wars of aggression (against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya) provide whatever proof is required to show it is not a force for peace or security.

None of the summit agenda dealt with the need for the working class and people to have a say in all matters that affect their lives. What NATO refers to as preparing for the future only promises further destruction, despair and retrogression.

Britain Out of NATO! Dismantle NATO!
Let Us Speak Out for the Necessity of an Anti-War Government!

Article Index

Necessity for an Anti-War Government

US and Britain Step Up War Preparations and NATO Extends Its Reach to Asia Pacific

UK Carrier Strike Group

The largest naval war exercise across the world in a generation is being prepared by the US for later this summer. Called Large Scale Exercise 2021 9 (LSE) [1] it will span both the European and Asia Pacific fields of operations with live forces. It will deploy about 25,000 US, NATO and Pacific Region personnel; aircraft carriers, submarines, aircraft and unmanned vessels, with the US Marines commanding the Asia Pacific operations. At the same time, Britain has launched its biggest deployment of UK naval and aerial military firepower since the 1982 Falklands War with the UK Carrier Strike Group 2021 [2]. The massive deployment is headed toward the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and Asia Pacific regions. This also follows major naval exercises off Scotland, Strike Warrior, in May and the present 50th BALTOPS [3] naval, air and army operations in the Baltic. Also, the NATO summit which opened in Belgium on June 14 with its NATO 2030 agenda to extend its reach to the Asia Pacific confirms the seriousness of the situation in that the US and Britain and their NATO allies are preparing for world war in the face of opposition of the world's people and nations of the world, with their demands for peace, self-determination, security and progress in such difficult times.

The US LSE exercise will span 17 time zones. In May, Christopher Grady, commander of US Fleet Forces, told [1] in an email, "LSE is more than just training, it is leveraging the integrated fighting power of multiple naval forces to share sensors, weapons, and platforms across all domains in contested environments, globally." The exercise, he added, will be the first in a series "that will continue to push the envelope of what it means to be the superior maritime force".

The aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is heading the UK Carrier Strike Group CSG21, also known as Operation Fortis that departed on a 28-week mission on May 24. It is also a NATO-backed mission, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said. Its purpose, he said, is for the UK to "[project] our influence, [signal] our power." More specifically, the Ministry of Defence states that the deployment is part of the "UK's tilt to the Indo-Pacific region" which it claims is to "bolster deep defence partnerships" in the region.

The Carrier Strike Group includes a squadron of 10 US Marine Corps F-35 jets, an attack submarine armed with Tomahawk missiles, two destroyers, a number of other warships and the greatest quantity of helicopters assigned to a single UK Task Group in a decade. The strike group will stop at more than 100 ports in over 40 countries for more than 70 engagements. The last leg of the voyage will take the strike group into the South China Sea, close to Taiwan and end with military exercises with Japan confronting China and the DPRK.

On June 11, at the pre-summit press conference, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared: "We are in an age of global competition. And we must respond to many threats and challenges at the same time. Russia and China pushing back against the rules-based international order."

Since Biden's inauguration, US war preparations, especially in the Asia Pacific region against China, are escalating and pose a grave danger to the peace and security of the region and of the world, whilst the US and other NATO powers claim they are for a "rules-based international order". This is a disguise for the same dictum that all must submit to the US as the "indispensable nation". It is an attempt to continue the Anglo-US "might makes right" under the conditions that the world's people are fighting for their rights and self-determination and sovereignty. In Britain, the working class and people must step up the struggle against the danger of war, affirm the right to be of all nations and peoples of the world, and take a stand to renew international relations on a modern proletarian internationalist basis, declaring that international issues must not be settled by force.

1. Biggest Navy Exercise in a Generation Will Include 25,000 Personnel Across 17 Time Zones - May 21 2021
2. UK Carrier Strike Group in its "final test ahead of deployment": Deployment of UK Carrier Strike Group Is Not in Our Name and Must Be Opposed!
3. BALTOPS - Between June 6-18, air and maritime assets from 18 NATO Allies and partner nations are participating in live training events that include air defence, anti-submarine warfare, amphibious operations, maritime interdiction, mine countermeasure operations. See article from 2020: End Britain's Participation in NATO's Global Warmongering

Article Index

The Group of Seven (G7)

Widescale Opposition to G7 Leaders' Summit

The Group of Seven (G7) "Leaders' Summit" June 11-13, brought together Heads of State from the seven countries that comprise it - the US, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. It was held near St Ives, Cornwall, in the small town of Carbis Bay which has a population of just 3,500. To defend the G7 "partnership based on shared interests and values" more than 5,000 police were mobilised at the summit, supplemented by police boats, drones, 150 police dogs, and special police forces in riot gear. Hundreds of Armed Forces personnel were also reported be present.

Sculpture entitled "Mount Recyclemore: The E7," created out of e-waste, in the likeness of the G7 leaders and in the style of Mount Rushmore by British artist Joe Rush on Sandy Acres Beach in Cornwall.

Actions by the peoples of Britain and Europe and virtual meetings worldwide took place to denounce both the G7 Summit and the NATO Summit held on June 14. These actions raised the peoples' demands as concerns providing vaccines free of charge to the peoples of the entire world, demands related to the climate crisis, poverty, the demand for equality and reparations for the crimes of slavery and genocide and many others. Actions are opposing the warmongering activities of the US-led NATO and denouncing the imperialist stand in defence of the Zionist attacks on the Palestinian people and occupation of the Palestinian homeland. The demands include dismantling these imperialist alliances and organising for anti-war governments. Most importantly, they underscore the fight taking place worldwide for people's empowerment against the system which concentrates decision-making in ruling elites of seven countries neither of which represent the interests of the peoples of the world.

Protests had already taken place at finance and health minsters' meetings in advance of the "leaders'" summit and Youth Climate Strike March and Sound the Alarm Actions took place during it.

Two representatives of the European Union also attended the Summit. Britain holds the rotating presidency this year and acts as the host country. It invited representatives from non-member countries Australia, India, South Africa and South Korea.

This photo is circulating on social media decrying the massive police presence at the summit. The cruise ship, with a capacity of 3,000, hired to accommodate some of the extra police officers deployed to the area is moored in Carbis Bay, Cornwall.

The host of this year's G7, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said that the G7 summit "aims to unite leading democracies to help the world build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic and create a greener, more prosperous future". This is to be done by:

"- leading the global recovery from the coronavirus while strengthening resilience against future pandemics;

- promoting future prosperity by championing free and fair trade;

- tackling climate change and preserving the planet's biodiversity; and

- championing global shared values."

This was the theme when the Prime Minister addressed Parliament, saying: "The G7 will combine our strengths and expertise to defeat Covid, minimise the risk of another pandemic, and build back better, fairer and greener, for the benefit of all. Alongside our partners, the G7 is now engaged in the biggest and fastest vaccination programme in history, designed to protect the whole world by the end of next year." Hidden behind claims about the alleged success of vaccination programmes in the US, Britain, Germany and France are the real countenance of increasing poverty, inequality, harm to the natural environment, violence and abuse.

The G7 Summit also featured meetings of ministers and representatives of what are called the G7 Engagement Groups: Women 7, Youth 7, Business 7, Civil Society 7, Labour 7 and Science 7. Their intention is to be spokespersons for G7 propaganda about "shared values" which covers up the state-organised violence and efforts made to divide the people on the basis of imperialist conceptions of rights and to funnel money to undermine the resistance of the peoples of both member countries and the world to the neo-liberal anti-social offensive.

Indicative of the "shared values" is the fact that people living in G7 countries are said to be 77 times more likely to be offered a vaccine than those living in the world's poorest countries. At the current rate, it would take the countries kept under the thumb of the "shared values" of the G7 some 57 years for everyone to be fully vaccinated. What is hidden however is how Big Pharma benefits through pay-the-rich schemes. Protesters at the pre-summit meeting of health ministers called on the G7 to "stop making empty promises and protecting the interests of pharmaceutical companies". This goes to the heart of the matter.

Another "shared value" is the high level of legal corruption which makes the most powerful corporations ever richer and the ever larger numbers of poor ever poorer. The compensation at the top is some 490 times greater than that of an average worker. Maintaining this status quo goes to the heart of what the "shared value" equated with "freedom, democracy and equal opportunity" is all about. The CEOs have "equal opportunity" to scam so as to triple their fortunes under the most adverse circumstances.

Within the G7, members like France and Germany remain in contention with the US, including over relations with Russia. Nord Stream 2, for example, a natural gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany, is being built despite US objections. So too, the very presence of NATO troops means the presence of US bases, troops and firepower and threatens the very countries whose soil they occupy. It shows that the mantra about "shared values" is a threat. Countries are told to either sort out the contradictions which abound on every front in a manner which favours US imperialist interests, or refusal to do so will be met with defamation, sanctions, death and destruction. These contradictions include those over the nuclear deal with Iran and many others where the contention over control of markets, investment capital, resources and zones of influence and financial gain lead to policy clashes which means clashes between police powers. Massive disinformation on matters related to human rights, Belarus and Ukraine are all of this nature. The G7 has long since trampled in the mud with impunity the right of the peoples of the world to have conflicts resolved without the use of force.

It is the countries which form the G7 and their obsolete democracies which deprive the peoples of political power that are creating unbearable conditions for the peoples worldwide. The G7 has adopted the slogan to make their countries "Great Again" as well as the imperialist slogan of the US administration, echoed by Boris Johnson, to "Build Back Better". The content of these slogans looks to the past for purposes of bringing it back to the future. In the present it takes the form of threats when the times are demanding political renewal so as to bring forms into being whereby the peoples can speak in their own names. Human agency is essential to change the present so that the path to progress serves humanity in the present. The watchword of the peoples is One Humanity, One Struggle for the Rights of All!

(Photos:Extinction Rebellion, Circular, P. Egerton.)

Article Index

Safeguarding the Future of the Health Service

Petition No to the Downgrading of South Tyneside Hospital Presented to Parliament

SSTHC campaigners handing over the long running petition to their local
MPs on College Green, with the Westminster Parliament in the background

On June 9, a deputation of 16 people from South Tyneside and Sunderland travelled to London to hand over a petition signed by some 44,000 people to be presented that day to the House of Commons.

The petition was launched in 2016 over concerns over the downgrading of the South Tyneside Hospital through what was claimed as a "Path to Excellence". Since then this "Path to Excellence" has already led to the loss of full maternity services, 24-hour children's A&E, the Special Care Baby Unit and the hospital stroke rehabilitation ward. Presenting the petition has highlighted that these closures of vital services must be halted and the government-driven programme of cuts and privatisation of health services reversed.

As the petition shows, these closures have not been agreed by the people of South Tyneside or Sunderland, and they are not in their name. Healthcare is a right in a modern society and it is the people of South Tyneside who must decide on the hospital services that should be provided. The Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign points out that there is a need to retain access to vital coronary care, ITU and other acute services at South Tyneside District Hospital. There is a need to retain a full trauma A&E, along with other vital services such as a full maternity service, and a 24-hour consultant-led children's A&E.

The petition was handed over by the delegation on College Green, opposite the Houses of Parliament, to Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields, as well as Kate Osborne MP for Jarrow, and Sharon Hodgson MP for Washington & Sunderland West. The petition was then presented to the House of Commons shortly after 7.00pm by Emma Lewell-Buck. The MP had also called on the Prime Minister to say no to the downgrading of South Tyneside Hospital during Prime Minister's Questions earlier that same day.

The presenting of the petition signed by 44,000 people is a tremendous achievement by the Campaign and the people of South Tyneside and Sunderland. Not only has the five-year-long campaign received the warm support of the tens of thousands of people who gave their signatures, but it represents the people of the North East raising their concerns right at the heart of government so as to educate Members of Parliament on these important concerns of the people and the issues involved in the plans known as the "Path to Excellence", as well as of the direction that neo-liberalism is taking the whole of the NHS. The people of South Tyneside and Sunderland have spoken, and Workers' Weekly warmly congratulates them on their stand.

Petition - South Tyneside Hospital - in the House of Commons at 7:08 pm on June 9, 2021

Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour, South Shields)

I rise to present a petition about South Tyneside Hospital on behalf of 44,000 of my constituents in South Shields.

The petition states:

The petition of residents of the constituency of South Shields,

Declares that the downgrading of South Tyneside Hospital announced in the "alliance" between South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust (STFT) and City Hospitals Sunderland (CHS) with loss of acute services will be a disaster for the people of South Tyneside and the people of Sunderland;

further that the removal of all acute services to Sunderland will make the Sunderland A&E unsustainable and will mean that people from South Tyneside will have to travel to Sunderland or Newcastle;

further that the immediate threat of this "alliance" is the loss of acute stroke and maternity services;

further that the decision to downgrade South Tyneside Hospital demonstrates that the Government's direction with the NHS is to reduce its funding and damage it through its fragmentation into purchasers and providers, closure of acute hospitals and A&E Departments, cut-backs and the takeover of the most profitable services by private health companies;

further that the Government has a duty to provide a comprehensive health service across England to all communities;

and further that access to healthcare is a right of all in a modern society and we demand that it be guaranteed.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to work with NHS England, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group and South Tyneside Health & Well-being Board to stop any plans to close acute services at South Tyneside District Hospital and to safeguard its Accident and Emergency Service.

And the petitioners remain, etc.

Article Index

The steel crisis

A Matter of Serious Concern for the Workers

The British steel sector and its supply chains were debated in Westminster Hall on June 9. The debate was introduced by Shadow Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Stephen Kinnock. That the subject was raised reflected the ongoing crisis in the steel industry, the latest events being the near collapse of Liberty Steel and its recent decision to sell off a number of its plants [1]. It is clear that workers in the steel industry are facing further wrecking of steel production.

The steel industry is a key component of the socialised economy. Steel is a commodity of fundamental importance, required in all sectors of the economy and day to day life. Its manufacture has become increasingly spoken of as a foundation industry by those who recognise it as necessary and seek to defend it, with the meaning that it underpins the socialised economy, and without it the economy is built on sand.

Destruction of foundation industries is akin to the destruction of the means of production. From the perspective of the workers, who have the project to build society and an economy aimed at the well-being of all, this is unconscionable and they need to be defended. Further, a degree of self-reliance is needed in foundation industries to protect such an economy from the vagaries of markets under the sway of the global oligarchs, which act at will without a moment's thought for the local economies where they operate, and which shift production around the world as suits them. It is the workers who have an interest in the future of society and they will not see the steel industry being wiped out altogether.

Though the need to safeguard the future of steel production has been raised in parliament (and even then, marginalised to a Westminster Hall debate), the question has to be asked: where is the voice of the workers? Where are the mechanisms whereby the workers can discuss these matters of serious concern from their own independent standpoint, and where that voice becomes an agency for change?

Workers are the actual producers and they actually live in society and depend critically on the socialised economy. Without their voice, the discussion is directed along lines that are set by the cartel party system and their prevailing capital-centred, neoliberal outlook.

It is exactly this outlook that has been facilitating the gradual death of the steel industry. Its destruction, privatisation and abandonment began in earnest under Margaret Thatcher. Since then, there have been successive closures and take-overs in the steel industry, all under the banner of neoliberal "free trade", "commercial decision-making", "being competitive in the global marketplace", "globalisation", and so on.

This outlook pays no attention to what an economy serving the people's needs should be like and the role of foundation industries. Nor does it pay heed to the dignity of labour and the life of communities. If an industry cannot compete, let it go to the wall, accompanied by many crocodile tears and assertions that the government is doing all it can.

The British steel industry is going through a crisis that threatens its very existence. Rather than take either practical emergency measures or make longer term plans to safeguard the present and future of this essential part of the socialised economy, the government is essentially claiming that nothing can be done. The government, and much of the media, are promoting the view that the British steel industry is struggling to be "competitive" against "cheap imports" of steel. On this view, the decision by steel monopolies to sell off or close plants in Britain is simply business, a commercial decision. The problem is that the market is not a level playing field, so goes the argument. The blame is then laid with market conditions, or the "costs" of production in Britain. It is conveniently forgotten that the workers have continued to make concession after concession in the name of keeping the steel industry producing and "competitive".

Furthermore, the ruling outlook is manifestly chauvinistic and connected to British empire-building aims. Not only is the blame laid with "foreign" imports, but the necessity for steel is connected with the militarisation of the economy. Kinnock went as far as calling for a "patriotic procurement policy", bemoaning the Ministry of Defence contract to buy Type 26 frigates for the Royal Navy built with Swedish steel.

In general, the whole debate was framed by both Labour's Kinnock and Holly Mumby-Croft, Conservative MP for Scunthorpe, in terms of "British steelmakers" and "their competitors" (specifically French and German), calling for the retention of protective tariffs, and what would "provide a better competitive environment for UK steelmakers". Kinnock also called for a government-industry "partnership" to "rebuild our manufacturing base".

The aim of the workers is independent of the terms of this debate. Their demand is for a steel industry that serves the socialised economy, an economy directed to the public well-being. Workers need to take up an independent programme to build a socialised economy, and as part of that, defend its vital components such as steel production.

Rejecting the fraud of international competition and the militarisation of the economy, the working class with its independent programme has the project of becoming the decision-making power and building such an economy that has the aim of well-being at its heart. Such a pro-social economy requires international trade for mutual benefit rather than competition. If public well-being is not put at the centre of considerations of the economy, then what is the aim of the economy? A new direction would be to plan for an economy that produces for people's needs, which entails increasing the manufacturing base. Steel manufacturing is a vital part of the economy and should be maintained. For a steel industry that serves the socialised economy!

1. For coverage and analysis of the crisis at Liberty Steel, see:
"Liberty Steel in Crisis: Need for an Outcome that Favours Communities and the Socialised Economy", Workers' Weekly, April 3, 2021

For Your Information: Response of the Trade Unions

In May, it had been announced that Liberty Steel Group intends to sell Stocksbridge and its downstream plants, the narrow strip mill at Brinsworth and Performance Steels at West Bromwich.

The Community trade union joined Unite the Union and GMB on May 20 to call for Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss to intervene and extend steel safeguards.

The Trade Remedies Investigations Directorate (part of the Department for International Trade) had on May 19 recommended to the government that the measures on half of all steel products should be terminated in June. There will now be a short period of consultation with industry, and between Government Departments before a final decision is made by the Secretary of State for International Trade.

Responding to the decision, Alasdair McDiarmid, Operations Director of the steelworkers' union Community, said:

"This is the first test of the Government's commitment to our steel industry post-Brexit and they're failing it. The Government must reconsider this appalling decision which threatens jobs and puts the future of our industry at risk.

"This Government has had plenty of warm words for steelworkers but now it's come to the crunch we're being left exposed to a catastrophic surge of cheap foreign imports. Many steelworkers put their trust in the Tories but this announcement betrays them and makes a complete mockery of the levelling up agenda."

Shadow Business Minister Seema Malhotra on June 8 joined representatives from Liberty Steel and the trade unions Community and Unite on a virtual visit to the Stocksbridge steelworks.

Alun Davies, Community National Organiser, said:

"Stocksbridge and its downstream plants are strategically important businesses vital to our country's defence, energy and aerospace sectors. The future for these businesses must be secured, and all jobs must be protected.

"We know that with the right framework of support the steel industry has a bright future at the core of a low carbon economy. But achieving this is going to require decisive action in areas like electricity prices and public procurement, so our steelworkers can compete on a level playing field with European steelmakers.

"As we leave the EU, invest billions in infrastructure, and host COP26, this is the year we must see major game-changing interventions unlocking the potential of our industry. Steelmakers like Liberty Steel Stocksbridge are vital businesses that provide good jobs in parts of the country that really need them."

Article Index

Workers' Forum

DVLA Workers Back on Strike over Covid Safety

PCS report that a third round of strike action has begun in the Driving Vehicle Licensing Association (DVLA) Covid safety dispute, after employers withdrew a deal at the last minute.

According to ITV Wales, the deal would have offered employees a phased office re-opening, a £200 "recognition payment", and two days' additional leave.

PCS general secretary Mr Serwotka said: "Through painstaking negotiation, our union and DVLA senior management were on the verge of agreeing a deal only for it to be scuppered at the last minute.

"We strongly suspect senior ministers at the Department for Transport have interfered with the progress we were making and want to make some kind of ideological stand against PCS.

"They have grossly underestimated the resolve of our members in DVLA and have only emboldened them to take targeted and sustained action in the months ahead until they win.

"PCS is fully prepared for months of strike action, and we urge the Government to rethink its position."

Workers at the DVLA contact centre in the Clase area of Swansea voted for strike action after insufficient action by management to deal with what was labelled "the worst Covid workplace outbreak" in Britain, which began in September last year and was still ongoing in March. Some 2,000 people were still working in 16-floor building every day even during the peak of that outbreak; the demand of the workers and their union was that this be reduced to a few hundred at most. The union further demanded that all vulnerable workers be sent home, and given paid leave if unable to work from home.

The stand of the DVLA has been 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 in March.

Workers have been active in rejecting any such pressure to silence them from speaking out and acting to defend their interests and the rights of all. It is by now abundantly clear that workplaces are a key factor in controlling the spread of Covid-19. It is crucial that society and the economy mobilise to protect the health of every individual. Further, working conditions should be determined by the workers who work in them. Workers should be central to decision-making.

(PCS, ITV Wales)

Article Index

Friends of Korea

International Webinar Discusses Present Situation and Developments in DPRK

On May 21, the Co-ordinating Committee of Friends of Korea hosted a lively and informative webinar on the current situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Korean Peninsula. Participants from Canada took part in the discussion alongside those in Britain, which provided a chance to learn about and exchange views on the topic.

Andy Brooks, General Secretary of the New Communist Party of Britain (NCP) and Chair of Friends of Korea, welcomed everyone and thanked them for joining in, especially those from Canada. He introduced Michael Chant, General Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and Secretary of Friends of Korea, who chaired the programme. Michael Chant set out the plan for the proceedings and introduced the violinist, teacher and composer Lesley Larkum, who played the Korean folk song Arirang, the anthem of the Korean reunification movement, which everyone appreciated.

Memorial wall to those killed during the Gwangju People's Uprising

In the first presentation, Michael Chant provided a historical overview of the DPRK's struggle for its right to be during the last 70 years and more in the face of US aggression, war and brutal sanctions. He highlighted the principled stand of the DPRK to uphold its sovereignty and dignity under all conditions and discussed recent developments in that country brought into focus by the decisions taken at the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea held in Pyongyang in January. The main thrust of the 8th Congress, he noted, was that it reiterated the DPRK's determination to uphold its self-reliant Juche outlook, strengthen its independent economy to counter the brutal sanctions regime of the Anglo-Americans, and defend itself against threats and aggression from the US and others. Britain is participating in the illegal sanctions the European Union has imposed against the DPRK, the speaker pointed out, despite having withdrawn from the EU. He noted that in the current period, the DPRK will be developing and strengthening its international relations in support of the cause of peace and justice everywhere, extending a hand of friendship to all who reciprocate. He underscored that in terms of its relations with the US, the DPRK has no illusions and will engage in relations on the basis of "goodwill for goodwill and power for power".

The next speaker was Dermot Hudson, Chair of the Korean Friendship Association in the UK (KFA UK). He informed participants of the Association's work to build people-to-people relations between the two countries to support the just stands of the DPRK in defence of peace on the Korean Peninsula and to oppose disinformation about the DPRK carried out by the monopoly media. One of the things Dr Hudson noted, in light of the atrocities that Israel is committing against the Palestinians, is that the DPRK has always stood with the Palestinian people, rendering material and political support over many decades. He reminded participants that the meeting was being held on the 41st anniversary of the Gwangju Uprising when students and workers in that city rose up and held power for several days in May 1980 to defy the US-backed Chun Doo Hwan military dictatorship in south Korea, and affirmed their right to democracy and empowerment. Dr Hudson observed that May 21 too was the first day of the Moon-Biden meeting in Washington, DC and expressed doubt that anything good for the Korean people would come of it.

The 8th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea in January 2021

The last presenter was Philip Fernandez, spokesperson of the Korea Truth Commission (Canadian Chapter). He spoke of how the framework of the Biden administration's new DPRK policy, based on a pragmatic approach of "diplomacy and stern deterrence", is doomed to fail because the DPRK conducts its foreign relations on the basis of principle and upholding its right to be. Contrary to the disinformation carried by the imperialist system of states that the DPRK is a violator of human rights, Fernandez pointed out that it is the crippling sanctions imposed by the US, Britain, Canada and others that constitute gross human rights violations and collective punishment against the people of the DPRK, which is doing its utmost to defend the rights of its people against this aggression.

Fernandez mentioned, among other things, that whenever the Korean people have made headway in building inter-Korean relations and strengthening the movement for reunification, the US imperialists have intervened to sabotage these efforts. In the context of next year's elections in south Korea, Fernandez noted that the US is working behind the scenes to install the anti-communist People's Power Party in office. This is to undermine relations between north and south and push back the 2018 historic Panmunjom Declaration that raised the hopes of the whole Korean nation for the strengthening of inter-Korean relations. One of the sitting politicians of the People's Power Party in the legislature, Thae Yong-Ho, who defected from the DPRK Embassy in London in 2016, has now joined the anti-DPRK campaign to slander and isolate his birthplace, Fernandez noted. He pointed out that in a recent interview Thae Yong-Ho called the DPRK a "slave state" while praising Britain as a land of "freedom, d emocracy and human rights"!

The decisive factor in the future of Korea are the Korean people themselves, not anyone or any other power, and their drive for peace and reunification will eventually succeed, Philip Fernandez underscored in concluding his presentation.

Following the presentations, Michael Chant informed participants that the DPRK's embassy in London had sent a message of greeting to the meeting and wished it success.

The discussion which ensued emphasised the importance of speaking out in defence of the DPRK and its right to be, in the context of the continued attacks on it by the US imperialists and their allies including the British government. There was strong sentiment to continue the fruitful discussion of this meeting.

The event concluded with a short video of a visit to a music school in Pyongyang in 2013 during the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Victory of the Fatherland Liberation War, followed by a clip of the playing of The Internationale at the close of the Workers' Party of Korea's 8th Congress.

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