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Volume 53 Number 28, October 7, 2023 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

For a new direction for society, not the old!

Conservative Party Conference Met with Mass Opposition

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For a new direction for society, not the old! Conservative Party Conference Met with Mass Opposition

Defence Secretary's Visit to Kyiv:
A Government in Disarray, Intent on Escalating War

For a new direction for society, not the old!

Conservative Party Conference Met with Mass Opposition

The 2023 Conservative Party Conference took place over four days from Sunday, October 1, to Wednesday, October 4. Thousands of NHS staff - including junior doctors and consultants who continued their joint strike action during that week from October 2-4, and radiographers who were striking on October 2 and 3 - demonstrated in Manchester on October 3, to speak out and speak in their own name in opposition to the conference and the Sunak government. Demonstrators assembled at Peter's Square in the centre of the city at 1pm for a rally outside of the conference. Striking health workers at Barts NHS Trust also protested at the Royal London Hospital on October 4 [1].

The week was also marked by extensive rail strikes. These and the doctors' strikes in particular have been under attack by the government. Health Secretary Steve Barclay has threatened the main doctors' union, the BMA, with the use of the enhanced police powers recently created by the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023, which received Royal Asset on July 20. This Act enables employers to issue a "work notice" specifying who would be required to work by law during a strike [2].

The Strikes Act is one more feature of the profound disequilibrium in the social relation between employer and employed that exists at this time. The doctors themselves were targeting the conference for the very reason that the government is refusing to discuss key issues such as pay in their dispute, instead imposing their "final offer" [3].

Various other protests and actions were organised over the period of the conference. A National Demonstration was organised by the People's Assembly on its first day, marching from All Saints Park on Manchester's Oxford Road at 12 noon, past the conference centre, to a rally at Castlefield Bowl. Despite the rain, the broad demonstration brought many thousands of trade unionists, students, campaigners and concerned individuals together to make their voices heard over issues such as the cost-of-living crisis, war, climate change, racism, and defence of the rights of all. A Festival of Resistance was also held in Piccadilly Gardens over October 2-5.

The Conservative Party Conference, the eighth held in Manchester since 2009, was marked by a heavy police presence. The centre of the city was militarised for its duration, with fences erected and roads closed to form "rings of steel" at the Manchester Central conference centre and other key locations. Hundreds of police officers, both armed and unarmed, patrolled the area, while snipers were positioned on rooftops.

A number of incidents of police harassment were reported. In one case, police stopped a coach carrying protesters from London. According to an eyewitness onboard, the coach was surrounded by at least thirty officers who claimed they had intelligence of illegally using items to disrupt the conference. Only one person was searched, a young Asian woman, and no arrests were made or anyone detained [4].

The spirit of the demonstrations during the conference was that of "Enough is Enough", reflected in calls to remove the Conservatives from power. This call is not something reducible to a change of horses, which in the conditions of the present simply means a different faction of the cartel party system claiming power for itself on behalf of the same oligarchic private interests. At essence, it is a call for a new political mechanism that directly embodies the popular will, a will for a new, human-centred direction for the NHS and all social programmes, and an economy that has meeting the needs of society as its primary aim.

In the doctors' dispute especially, the government has forced the issue of Who Decides. The struggle reveals that the solutions to the problems in the NHS lie with the health workers themselves. The fight they are taking up is as much to do with ending their marginalisation as it is immediately about pay, beginning with speaking out, smashing the silence on their working conditions - which are also the patients' conditions - and refusing to be ignored. They are aiming at a new situation where decision-making involves doctors, nurses and all health workers, along with communities and people as a whole, speaking and acting in their own name and as one, without the mechanisms of disempowerment blocking their direct decisions from being realised.

1. "Striking doctors & radiographers march on Tory Party Conference", National Shop Stewards Network
2. The recent TUC Congress passed a motion to pledge "100% solidarity with any trade unions attacked under these MSL laws", and which calls for a repeal of this and previous anti-union laws.
"C01 Campaign against the Minimum Service Levels (MSLs) legislation", TUC Congress Motions
3. "Uniting for the Future of the Health Service: Consultants and Junior Doctors to Hold Joint Strike Action", Workers' Weekly, September 23, 2023
4. "The cops can't stop us: thousands march in Manchester against the Tories", Shabbir Lakha, Counterfire, October 2, 202

Article Index

Defence Secretary's Visit to Kyiv

A Government in Disarray, Intent on Escalating War

It is reported in a government press release [1] that Defence Secretary Grant Shapps travelled to Kyiv on September 27 with the UK Chief of the Defence Staff, meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Defence Secretary held meetings with his Ukraine counterpart Rustem Umerov and "promised further military support from the UK". The press release boasted of Britain's role in escalating the war, saying that Britain had "led the way in global support for Ukraine, having been the first country to provide modern, Western main battle tanks and long-range precision strike cruise missiles, following decisions by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Further support has included more than 300,000 rounds of artillery ammunition, hundreds of vehicles and weapon systems, and thousands of items of personal protective equipment." It further stated that a "UK-led international programme of training for Ukraine's military," has already trained more than 26,500 recruits and is on track to have trained more than 30,000 soldiers by the end of 2023. Also it revealed that the "UK delivered £2.3bn in military aid to Ukraine in 2022 and the Prime Minister has pledged to do the same in 2023, with further support to be delivered in the coming weeks and months."

Grant Shapps ramping up support for the war in Ukraine - Photo: Telegraph

As the statement pointed out, this support was in line with what Rishi Sunak had pledged at the NATO leaders' Summit in Vilnius in July. This summit had endorsed the warmongering path of the US/NATO alliance to continue to arm Ukraine for its proxy war against Russia without directly involving the US and Britain and other NATO countries themselves. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg had warned at that time that the bloc must first ensure that Ukraine achieves a "victory" in its ongoing conflict with Russia, and should Kyiv not succeed its NATO membership would be "out of the question". Weakening Russia before the war started, not concern for the interests of the Ukrainian people, was always NATO's aim. It must also be noted that the US, Britain and the western powers were responsible for provoking the war in Ukraine, especially since the Ukrainian regime, which they helped install in 2014 in the Maidan coup as a Russophobia government, was rejected by the people of Crimea and the Donbas in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Eastern Ukraine was then subject to a military campaign killing thousands in the Donetsk and Luhansk republics of Donbas. This was a military campaign shamelessly supported by the US and Britain and the EU and NATO powers. At that time Britain trained the Ukrainian regime army used against the Donbas from 2014 in Ukraine itself before the present Russian military operation started and the British military withdrew. Nevertheless, it is reported that special forces remain in secret.

On Saturday, September 30, Grant Shapps reported the content of talks that had been held with the Ukrainian President and the army leaders. He revealed a further planned escalation of Britain's interference in escalating the war. Shapps said he had talked about deploying British troops within Ukraine for the first time "for a training programme" [2]. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph [3] published on the same day, Shapps also disclosed how Britain would ramp up its training programme for Ukrainian soldiers under plans being discussed with military chiefs.

As soon as these reports hit the media, the government was in disarray. Almost immediately on Saturday the Mail Online [4] reported, "Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister slaps down Grant Shapps over push to send British troops to Ukraine to train Kyiv's forces after Kremlin warns they would be 'legitimate targets' for 'destruction'." In the report the Prime Minister insisted the idea floated by the Defence Secretary was "not what's happening" and not something for the "here and now". The Prime Minister was on a visit to Burnley prior to arriving at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester and said he wanted to be "absolutely clear about the situation". He claimed what the Defence Secretary was saying "was that it might well be possible one day in the future for us to do some of that training in Ukraine," and that is "something for the long term, not the here and now, there are no British soldiers that will be sent to fight in the current conflict. That's not what's happening. What we are doing is training Ukrainians. We're doing that here in the UK."

But Grant Shapps had also said in his interview with The Telegraph that he had held talks with Army leaders about moving "more training and production of military equipment into Ukraine". He also called on more British defence firms to set up factories in the country. Shapps also revealed that he had talked to Zelenskyy about how Britain's Navy could play a role in "defending commercial vessels" from Russian attacks in the Black Sea. The Telegraph noted: "Both moves would mark a significant escalation in the UK's involvement." On these points the Prime Minister did not express any concerns.

The following day, October 1, at the Conservative Party conference, Grant Shapps addressed the conference in a hall that the BBC report said was "less than half full" and where "the delegates clapped politely then filed out quickly. There was little energy, not much enthusiasm." Shapps once again highlighted the programme for deployment of troops abroad. He announced "two new military deployments," one to Poland as well as a "peacekeeping mission" to Kosovo. Also, as part of the AUKUS alliance's interference in the East Pacific, threatening China, the Defence Secretary also announced £4bn of contracts with BAE and other firms to develop "the most powerful attack submarines ever operated by the Royal Navy". When talking about Ukraine, he admitted the extent of Britain's involvement in the war against Russia when he said that "we must not let up now", even though he admitted that the war was consuming weapons and people "at an appalling rate".

In response to this latest performance of Shapps and Sunak, people are making their voices heard in the online replies to these reports and in discussions everywhere that "this is a government which is in disarray"; that the "government should be advising to seek a peace deal, not looking for ways to involve British people even further in this future war" [5]. These, together with other important comments from families that have soldiers in the army, reveal a growing opposition to the government's escalation of the war endangering British lives and its refusal to allow a peaceful resolution.

People must continue to speak out and demand that the government end the escalation of the war in Ukraine and allow a peaceful solution to be reached between Ukraine and Russia. This is an urgent matter. The people of Britain are not alone, as the tens of thousands of people in Europe are also further opposing the escalation of this war and NATO's attempt to fuel it with weapons, special forces and military intelligence, escalating it for their own interests using lies and disinformation. The working class and people must take up the challenge. This will give rise to a new consciousness on the necessity for an Anti-War Government in Britain, the fight for which has never been more urgent.

No to the US/NATO-provoked war in Europe!
No to Britain's Escalation of War!
Fight for an Anti-War Government!

1. Press release: Further support for Ukraine promised as Defence Secretary meets President Zelenskyy in Kyiv
2. British troops could deploy to Ukraine for first time to train soldiers, says Grant Shapps, The Guardian, September 30 2023
3. Grant Shapps to ramp up support for Volodymyr Zelenskyy by Edward Malnick, Sunday Political Editor The Telegraph, September 30 2023
4. Rishi Sunak slaps down Grant Shapps over push to send British troops to Ukraine to train Kyiv's forces, Mail Online, September 30, 2023
5. The comments go on, saying for instance that Shapps and the government "are out of touch with reality not only wanting to add British soldiers lives to those of Ukrainians and Russians dying in Ukraine but also putting the entire population of Britain in danger by escalating this war." People are also noting that "the Russians have shown considerable forbearance already but would certainly target any British troops that they could identify in Ukraine." People also point out that it is only the Russians' very reasonable reluctance to start an all-out war in Ukraine that has stopped the escalation so far yet Britain "is very involved in killing their troops." Further, "This is a pointless and dangerous proxy war that the US caused purely for money and to hopefully weaken Russia, and it was always going to fail....just as a Russian backed armed aggression of Mexico against the US would fail."

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