|Volume 53 Number 8, March 18, 2023
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
SOS NHS Demonstration:
Now is the Time for Working People to Stand Firm and Speak Out
International Women's Day Gathering:
An Affirming Occasion as Women World-Wide Get Together to Celebrate International Women's Day!
Modern Communist Movement:
44th Anniversary of Founding of RCPB(ML)
On Wednesday at least 40,000 strikers marched through central London to a rally in Trafalgar Square - Photo: WSWS
A wave of strike action took place over the past week, peaking around the day of the Spring Budget on Wednesday, March 15. An estimated 400,000 to half a million people across various sectors of the socialised economy struck work together on that day alone.
On Wednesday itself, at least 40,000 marched through central London. Two main contingents assembled in Hyde Park and Embankment, led by the NEU and PCS respectively, converging on a rally with speeches in Trafalgar Square.
Over 100,000 teachers struck work again on Wednesday and Thursday, continuing their biggest period of strike action in thirty years, affecting the vast majority of schools across the country. The NEU is demanding a fully-funded pay increase due to rising inflation and ten years' worth of real-term pay cuts. Pay has fallen 23% in real terms since 2010, leaving some teachers in desperate conditions. Other issues, "causing disruption and long-term damage to education every day" according to NEU joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney , include rising class sizes, support for special educational needs, recruitment and retention of staff, schools in disrepair, and excessive workload. The struggle for a properly funded and modern education system has been ongoing for many years, with teachers questioning the future of education that is being unsustainably underfunded and undermined. Their actions have exposed for all to see that the very future of education is at stake. Forms must be found to empower them to discuss and provide the solutions themselves.
"Teachers want to be listened to," as Courtney said. "Their concerns are serious. We are willing to meet and discuss them, to negotiate a way forward at any time." He pointed out that the "NEU ballot result, the influx of new members to the union and the degree of parental support have been unsettling for ministers", who have been attempting to undermine the stand of the teachers. The government in England has taken the "very new and unusual" step of imposing preconditions to negotiation, demanding that the strikes be cancelled before they would even make a first offer on pay and funding.
The crisis has developed to a point where the block to discussing the future of education must be overcome, with teachers themselves at the forefront of this discussion. It is noteworthy then that teachers have forced progress in Wales and Scotland, where such preconditions were not declared, serious offers have been made, and strike action has been postponed or ended.
University Staff Strike
University staff struck from Wednesday until the following Wednesday, involving 70,000 staff at 150 universities across Britain, including academics, librarians, and other staff. This will complete the 18 days of planned action, which began on February 9, though the UCU is now re-balloting to extend action to the end of the academic year. In a struggle marked by employers' imposition and refusal to negotiate, union members voted to reject the latest pay offer, worth for most only around 5%. The National Union of Students backed staff taking the strike action, which impacted on 2.5 million students.
The context is 10 years of real-terms pay cuts. Staff do an average of two days' additional unpaid work per week, while a third of academic staff on temporary contracts. The demands include a meaningful pay rise to deal with the inflation crisis, ending insecure contracts, and addressing severe workloads. Pension demands include revoking cuts made last year and restoring benefits. The pension cuts will see the average member lose 35% of their guaranteed future retirement income. For those early in their careers, the losses are in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Higher education workers add huge value to the economy, and contribute to culture and society by producing highly skilled graduates and postgraduates, and carry out research that leads to scientific and technological advances. Education is a right and should serve society. In struggling for their rights and claims, academics and higher education workers, as well as school teachers, are fighting for the rights of all.
Junior Doctors Strike
Junior doctors in England held a virtually unprecedented 72-hour strike from Monday to Wednesday. 98% of junior doctors on a turnout of 77% in England voted in favour of action, affecting emergencies, general practise, and planned care. Junior doctors make up 45% of the medical workforce and include recent graduates through to those with 10 years of experience. The nearly 50,000 doctors were striking to demand a pay rise of 35% and pay restoration after real-terms cuts since 2008 and measures to address overwork and retention issues. Though the BMA have met with ministers in recent weeks, there have been no formal pay talks, and the government has made it clear they are not willing to meet their demands. They are "demoralised, angry and no longer willing to work for wages that have seen a real-terms decline of over 26 per cent in the past 15 years," said a BMA spokesperson .
Transport Workers Strike
In the transport sector, London Underground drivers and staff, members of Aslef and RMT, struck on Wednesday over job losses, pension scheme changes, and changes to working agreements. Then on Thursday and Saturday, strikes were held by members of RMT at 14 train companies around the country. Rail workers are demanding with pay rises, and are challenging so-called "modernisation" plans, which involve cuts to scheduled maintenance tasks, ticket office closures, and thousands of jobs lost. At the same time, a Network Rail action on Thursday was suspended while RMT members consider an improved pay offer in their ongoing dispute.
Civil Servants Strike
Around 133,000 civil servants struck work on Wednesday over low pay levels. The action by members of PCS affected 124 government departments and services, including the Cabinet Office, the Department for Education, the Home Office, the Department for Transport, the Department for Work and Pensions, National Highways, the UK Health Security Agency, the HMRC, the DVLA, and the Border Force, seriously disrupting arrivals at air and sea ports .
"Unless ministers put more money on the table, our strikes will continue to escalate, beginning on March 15," said PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka before the strike .
Media Workers Strike
Media workers held a 24-hour strike at various BBC Local studios and offices from Wednesday to Thursday.
"The BBC must recognise the damaging impact of recent decisions and engage fully with the union, to reach a solution in the dispute over cuts to local radio," the NUJ said in a statement made in the midst of the Lineker affair. The action "is about the future of quality local news in the many diverse communities the BBC serves. Plans to axe radio shows and reduce resources have caused dismay and anger amongst NUJ members who know the true value of trusted local news."
"The BBC's much-vaunted Digital First strategy should not be implemented at the expense of news and content that is genuinely local and accessible. At the heart of these plans, there is a funding issue created by the government's decision to freeze the licence fee, but it also lays bare a deeper question of what the BBC's role and purpose is in a digital age. At a time of polarised debate, where high levels of distrust are cynically whipped up in echo chambers amplified by algorithms, a public service broadcaster like the BBC should be prized and protected, not hollowed out or left vulnerable to the whims of any government of the day," said the union. 
Other industrial action coinciding with the Budget included Amazon workers in Coventry on a week-long strike. 
1. Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary, National Education Union (NEU), "Ministers are trying to undermine teacher strikes. Their behaviour is counterproductive," Schools Week, March 11, 2023
2. "BMA announces dates for 72-hour walk out by Junior doctors in England, saying Health Secretary has left them 'with no choice'," British Medical Association (BMA), February 24, 2023 https://www.bma.org.uk/bma-media-centre/bma-announces-dates-for-72-hour-walk-out-by-junior-doctors-in-england-saying-health-secretary-has-left-them-with-no-choice
3. "Strike action to affect travellers and goods entering the UK on 15 March," Home Office, March 7, 2023
4."33,000 more civil servants vote for strike action," Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), February 28, 2023
5. "NUJ statement on the BBC as journalists prepare to strike," National Union of Journalists (NUJ), March 12, 2023
6. "Support the mass 15th March Budget Day Strike," National Shop Stewards Network
On Saturday March 11, thousands demonstrated through the streets of London to show their support for the NHS and for health workers striking against the attacks on their livelihoods. The demonstration, which maintained a very positive atmosphere and was also visually stunning, represented something which is, and has been, central to our society - maintaining a fully-funded and universal public health care system with everyone having the right to health care.
The ruling elite imagine that they can impose their corporate agenda and dismantle hospitals and the health care system, privatising these public services with their US companies and billionaire friends taking over. They imagine that they can take away people's right to health care bit by bit and make people pay for this crisis in the NHS that they have created. However, the demonstration showed that the movement of health workers and the people as a whole is as strong as ever to turn the tables on the government and ruling elite. It is a movement of health workers and people in their communities to take over the decisions on protecting and developing the publicly owned health care system. With the continued strike struggles of nurses, ambulance staff and now junior doctors, who took strike action for three days this last week, the fight for change is now on.
The demonstration formed up at 12 noon at Warren Street in Tottenham Court Road with a rally at the start of the march. It then marched on to Whitehall, stopping outside Downing Street for a final rally at the end of the march. Dr Tony O'Sullivan, founder of the SOS NHS coalition, which organised the march, said: "There is a tragedy unfolding before our very eyes. 500 avoidable deaths every week on the NHS emergency pathway. The government is 100% to blame. I have never seen such a crisis of low morale amongst health staff - pay NHS staff properly now and repair this current crisis."
An article published by the organisers, I am a junior doctor - enough is enough by Aislinn Macklin-Doherty, a junior doctor , pointed out: "Working in the NHS now can feel very much like being put onto a ship after it has hit an iceberg... Our industrial action is a demand for action. A message that we will tolerate this poor treatment of our service, ourselves and our patients no longer. We all deserve better." She concluded that the dominant feeling was "enough is enough", and said that the "enormous amounts of money the Government found very quickly during the COVID pandemic for PPE, Track & Trace, and for investment in companies with close ties to Government have not gone unnoticed by us in a service where we are constantly fed the line 'there is not enough' - when there clearly is. It is just constantly earmarked for profitability and not for public service."
The demonstration was an important contribution in the building of the organised strikes and struggles of the working class and people - from railway workers, health workers, education workers, civil services and many others - to defend their pay and conditions and the services they provide. It has also played an important role at a time when people in every area are continuing to build the fight to defend their health and other services. This is all part of the whole movement of the working class and people that Enough is Enough!
The demonstration showed that people are setting their sights on the goal of being in control of their own lives and the health, education and other public services that meet their needs. The unprecedented strike actions are confronting the government, which is refusing to stop championing the rich and at the same time refusing to meet the needs of the people who provide our health and public services. It is the people's programme to stop paying the rich, and that instead the wealth created by all of society should be invested in the peace and the social well-being of all.
Now is the time for working people to strengthen their organisation, stand firm and speak out in their own name, with their own outlook and programme as events unfold.
1. I am a junior doctor - enough is enough- March 15 2023
On March 8, in common with others the length and breadth of the country, not to mention world wide, a small but enthusiastic group of women met in London to celebrate International Women's Day, actively supported by many more who were unable to be there in person.
The aim of the meeting was in the first place simply to get together to affirm ourselves as women, whilst focusing on the theme of democratic renewal. This led to much discussion about the struggles taking place right now across Britain and around the world and how women are taking up their role at the forefront of all these struggles and are, in all spheres, fighting for the rights of all and for the renovation of the entire society.
Summing up the evening, everyone said how empowering and liberating it had been to be able to discuss and share their experience together in this way; how the atmosphere of free and open discussion had enabled everyone to participate in the discussion and advance their understanding. The crucial thing, everyone declared, was to be active and to counter the negative pressure to passively describe everything from the side lines, as it were, and how important it was to be able to speak about their views. People felt that there has been an attempt to create a climate where it is not acceptable to express views counter to the predominating narrative, for example, over the war in Ukraine or the plight of asylum seekers and immigration in Britain.
The discussion was wide-ranging focusing on the theme of democratic renewal and how this very fight is bringing into being the modern democratic personality. This led to an investigation into what the modern democratic personality means: that women everywhere are shining examples of this because they are, as a collective, actively taking up and fighting in the ongoing struggles to defend the NHS, in the fight for an education system for all, in the anti-war movement, and in every struggle of the working class and people. In a nutshell, women are assuming social responsibility for the fate of society and all its members, and they will not be criminalised, made fair game or disempowered. Indeed, it was affirmed that wherever the fight for renovation is, there are women to be found at the forefront and in the ranks, taking up their place in the struggle.
The meeting could be said to have given voice to all those involved of their conviction that working women themselves are defining what must be done and how to bring this renovation, this renewal, about. The evening finished with poetry readings, a reading of a statement saluting International Women's Day, and music written by and performed by the women. In summary, the very act of coming together to consciously celebrate International Women's Day as a collective had been extremely affirming.
March 16 marked the 44th anniversary of the founding of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) in 1979. The Party is proud to have reached this anniversary tempered in the midst of the struggles and fighting traditions of the working class and people of England, Scotland and Wales. We pay tribute to these struggles and traditions which the working people have never betrayed, especially the working women who have always been at the forefront, as well as the forerunner organisations of RCPB(ML).
The Party has been tempered in the anti-fascist struggles of the 1970s, has taken up as one the cause of the liberation and unity of Ireland and the Irish people from British colonialism and imperialism, and against all racist attacks, organised by the state, and as one, the cause of the people of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean, whether as part of the working class in Britain or in unity against the colonialism and neo-colonialism of the British state, its ruling elite and its reactionary and retrogressive monarchy.
It has always taken up the fight against imperialist war, and today has as part of its cutting edge work the fight for an Anti-War Government. It does so first and foremost in its work of Party building, the taking and implementing of decisions in and through the collective, having in mind the necessity to give rise to the modern democratic personality, and takes these methods into the movement itself. In this way, the line of march is being taken towards establishing an Anti-War Government which embodies the modern democratic personality and which fulfils the people's striving for peace, democracy and freedom. This is a profound conception encompassing a government which is also pro-social and pro-worker. Out of the resistance struggles of society, and guided by the theory of Modern Communism, will come the outlook of the New. This is a new framework which has fidelity to the ensemble of human relations, and recognises that the need for political power is indispensable. It is an internationalist framework, working to bring into being a world of socialised humanity.
In this respect, the Party persistently implements its stand against all aggressive alliances such as NATO, but also against the police powers wielded by the ruling elites who are restructuring the state to ensure everything is done to serve the narrow private interests of finance capital and the oligopolies. RCPB(ML) organises and inspires the working class to respond to the urgent necessity for a change in the direction of society and the economy, for the people to establish their own vantage point and for the working class to rely on and implement its own agenda and programme and speak in their own name. This points the way forward to the way out of the crisis, a crisis which is characterised by the existence of defunct liberal democratic institutions which no longer answer to the needs of the times. This requires settling scores with the old conscience which embodies the "covenant thesis" on which the old political system is based, with "representatives" authorised to speak in the name of the electorate, a system which is disempowering the people, maintaining a fictitious person of state which keeps everyone as subjects, rather than as citizens with equal membership rights. The Party in this context upholds that the working class must constitute itself the nation and vest sovereignty in the people with the aim of creating a society without the exploitation of persons by persons, and in particular ending the old system of wage slavery. The Party organises the people to be history-making. This is the significance of its own history. No amount of attempts to marginalise the Party can erase this. Its outlook, revolutionary ideology and methods of work mark it out.
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 pay tribute to all its members, activists and sympathisers over the years who have contributed to building RCPB(ML) in all its vibrancy and vitality, dealing with the world as it is, and as part of the communist and workers' movement internationally.
Salute to the Party on its 44th Anniversary! Long Live RCPB(ML)!
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