|Volume 53 Number 30, November 4, 2023
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
November 2, 1917 - 106th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration:
End the Zionist Occupation of Palestinian Lands!
From the Party Press: Britain and Palestine:
A Criminal History of Intervention - The Partition of Palestine 1947-48
Workers' Forum: For Your Information:
Trades Unions Stand with Palestine and the Resistance to Occupation
Long Live Revolutionary Cuba!:
Massive United Nations Rejection of US Blockade of Cuba
Victory to the Rail Workers and the Community over Ticket Office Closures
Workers' Forum: Discussion on the future of education:
It Is Teachers Who Hold Solutions to the Problems Facing Schools
Teachers in Independent Schools Face Further Pensions Threat
Israel has been continually escalating its attacks on the people of Palestine with ever more intense aerial bombings and targeting of hospitals under the pretext that Hamas is using the people as human shields. This is being perpetrated in preparation for an all-out ground invasion, as the crime of genocide has become totally evident for all to see. Israel is seeking to destroy the Palestinian people. No matter how Israel, the US, Britain and other countries try to present what the Israelis are doing as legitimate, the peoples throughout the world are standing with Palestine.
All over the world, demonstrations and protests are and have been taking place, as millions of people in all corners of the globe demand recognition of the Palestinian people's right to be. In cities across the West Bank also, thousands of Palestinians in Ramallah, Nablus and elsewhere have been protesting in solidarity with those in Gaza, as Israel intensifies its military campaign against the Palestinian Resistance throughout the Gaza Strip. In Britain itself, week by week the protests have been gathering together hundreds of thousands of people, with as many as half a million in the national demonstration in London on October 28, in addition to the many emergency rallies, sit-ins at train stations and student actions in which thousands of people have been participating.
In opposition to the shameful backing of Israeli genocide by the likes of Sunak and Starmer under the pretext of Israeli's so-called right to "defend itself", it is the people who have demonstrated that they are determined to speak in their own name, including many Jewish people declaring "Not In Our Name". The people, while viewing with anguish the sufferings of the children, women and men of Gaza, are seething with anger and a burning determination to see justice done. Their admiration for the limitless courage and determination of the Palestinian people, the journalists, health personnel and humanitarian workers has no bounds. Yes, the world is standing with Palestine and declaring, "We are all Palestinians!".
Opposition to Israel Continues to Grow
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has been mercilessly attacked by Israel and its accomplices for saying on October 24 that the attacks carried out by the Palestinian resistance groups inside Israel on October 7 "did not happen in a vacuum". He said: "The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation. They have seen their land steadily devoured by settlements and plagued by violence; their economy stifled; their people displaced and their homes demolished. Their hopes for a political solution to their plight have been vanishing."
As well as the response of the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, who called Guterres' comments "shocking" and demanded his removal from office, in Britain Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shamefully rejected Guterres' comments. Furthermore, the UK was also one of the 45 states to abstain in the vote at the UN General Assembly calling for a humanitarian truce. Some 120 countries voted for the resolution with only 14 countries voting against. Standing with Israel, Keir Starmer's shameful lack of humanity towards the Palestinian people has been demonstrated not just in his refusal to endorse a ceasefire, but in defining terrorism as coming from Hamas. As he said in the House of Commons on October 23, "We stand with Israel and her right to defend herself against the terrorists of Hamas." And he wipes out the history of Britain's criminal intervention in Palestine over the past century and more, denigrating the Palestinian resistance as barbarism, rather than the cruel and heartless strategy of Britain's ruling elites.
At a time that the peoples of the entire world are denouncing the crime of genocide that Israel is committing against the Palestinian people, the dishonest rewriting of history by the likes of Sunak and Starmer in the name of human rights cannot be allowed to stand. Starmer even claims, "We stand for international law", ignoring that the laws of war are being flouted by Israel, laws which were defined by the events of the holocaust of World War Two and the terror of the Hitlerites.
The world can see that Israel today is seeking to empty the northern part of the Gaza Strip, turn its population into refugees once again and then annex that land as part of their plan for a Greater Israel. They are now doing the same with all of Gaza as well as the West Bank. And Israel is defended to the hilt by the United States, Britain, France, Germany and other old colonial powers who partitioned Arab lands after World War I and created borders by carving up territory and putting certain tribes into power to suit their own predatory interests.
Despite the fact that the conception of a modern state cannot be based on religious criteria, but must recognise all its members as equal irrespective of national origin, gender, age, political, religious or ideological beliefs, Israel is presented by the US, Britain and others as a democratic country acting in self-defence while the Palestinians' right to be, right of return and very humanity are denigrated, ignored and slated for extinguishment. As a result of the fact that the US is permitted "indispensable nation" status by Britain and other big powers in Europe, what is called the international community has been powerless to hold Israel to its founding resolution and to all the other resolutions which have condemned its actions against the Palestinians.
The gap between the pro-war stands of the ruling elite of Britain and the stand of the people for Palestine's right to be has never been more pronounced. It must be affirmed that the decisive factor for peace is the peoples of each country and of the world. In the current atrocities Israel is committing against the Palestinian people with the clear support and encouragement and material aid of the US, Britain and other former colonial powers of Europe, the peoples of the world can readily see who pays the price for the striving of the war machines and profiteers to prevail.
Let us all stand as one with Palestine!
University of Manchester, October 27
New Street Station, Birmingham, November 2
Barnsley, October 28
The Road to Nowhere by Ismail Shammout 1930-2006. He was expelled from Lydda in 1948.
The plight of the refugees is depicted in many of his most famous paintings. (Displaced Palestinians)
November 2 marks the 106th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a 1917 letter sent by the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to a prominent British Zionist leader promising land in Palestine for foreign settlement.
This criminal act of the British Empire to "give" the land of another people usurped during the First World War for colonial settlement created the conditions for countless atrocities against the Palestinians, as well as the subsequent proclamation of a Zionist state and the ongoing genocide and seizure of Palestinian land.
In considering the crime Britain committed, it is important to keep in mind the aims of the British Empire at the time and its geopolitical strategy. British Prime Minister Lloyd George and his Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill informed the head of the Zionist Federation, Chaim Weizmann, in 1921 "that by the Declaration they had always meant an eventual state". To ensure the Zionist minority had the upper hand on behalf of British interests, Lloyd George told Churchill, "You mustn't give representative government to Palestine." Researcher Nu'man Abd al-Wahid noted: "The newly European Jewish settlers were to be the Praetorian Guard of Egypt and specifically of the Suez Canal. As such, in the words of Winston Churchill, European Jews would then 'be especially in harmony with the truest interests of the British Empire' rather than 'unassimilated sojourners in every land.'"
The Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary organisation that existed from 1920 to 1948 in the British Mandate of Palestine to suppress the Palestinians, would go on to become the core of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). It was said to be founded on the basis of self-defence, because the British could not be relied on to ensure the security of the Jewish population. In practice, it was part of the Zionist apparatus in Palestine, co-operating with the British when it served Zionist aims. While it began as an underground organisation, it expanded to encompass nearly all the youth and adults in the settlements, as well as several thousand members from each of the cities.
During 1936-1939, while Palestinians rose up to reject the British Mandate, the Haganah developed from a militia into a military body. The British administration did not officially recognise the organisation, but in practice the British Security Forces co-operated with it by establishing civilian militia as part of putting down the Arab Revolt.
The Haganah functioned not only in Palestine, it had branches in other parts of the world, including the United States, Poland, Germany, Italy, France, and Morocco. It carried out arms deals to bring in weapons from the United States, Western Europe, and Czechoslovakia, and carried out its own arms production.
In the spring of 1947, future Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion began to direct the general policy of the Haganah. Following the Nakba, in which Zionist Israel was founded by the dispossession of the Palestinian people, on May 26, 1948, the Provisional Government of Israel decided to transform the Haganah into the regular army of the State, to be called "Zeva Haganah Le-Yisrael" - the Israel Defence Forces. The catastrophe of the Arab Palestinian people in 1948 continues at the hands of Israel, using the same old policies and laws established by the British such as land confiscation laws, home demolitions, 'administrative' detention, deportations, violent repression, and the continuation of the expulsion of about 7.9 million Palestinians who are denied their basic national and human rights, especially their right of return and to live normally in their homeland. It is actively aided and abetted by the United States, Britain and other big powers of old Europe. This catastrophe of the Palestinian people could not continue without the support of Israel by the United States, Britain and other countries.
We condemn the infamous act known as the Balfour Declaration and the ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people.
1."The Empire's Balfour Declaration and the Suez Canal," Nu'man Abd al-Wahi, Churchill's Karma, December 20, 2012.
Workers' Daily Internet Edition, June 1, 2009
The British government made a promise to support the Palestinian people's right to self-determination during World War 1. However, at the same time it committed itself, in the infamous Balfour Declaration, to "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people". In 1917, Britain occupied Palestine, which had formerly been part of the Ottoman empire. In 1922, Palestine was handed to Britain as a mandated territory by the League of Nations. Mandated territories were supposed to be guided to independence by a supervisory power that had as its primary consideration the wishes of the population of such territories. During the next 25 years however, successive British governments fully supported the aims of the Zionist movement, and encouraged thousands of Jewish settlers to migrate to Palestine. The continual denial of the rights of the Palestinians led to a major rebellion in 1936, which was ruthlessly suppressed by the British government.
The government-appointed Peel Commission in 1937 recommended that Palestine should be partitioned. However, this solution was rejected both by the Palestinians, whose uprising continued until 1939 and who demanded independence for all of Palestine, and also by the Zionists who calculated that with the arrival of even more Jewish settlers they would be in a stronger position to demand even more territory for a future Jewish state. As a consequence of these rejections, the British government then published its 1939 White Paper that stated: "HMG therefore now declare unequivocally that it is not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State." Rather it declared its intention was "the establishment within ten years of an independent Palestinian state", and one in which "Arabs and Jews share in government".
However, the British government's attempt to repudiate its previous support for Zionism did not alter the nature of the problem in Palestine even during World War Two. Zionist terrorism against both the British administration and the Palestinian people increased and culminated in the attack on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946. The Palestine problem was further exacerbated by the intervention of the US government, which encouraged a massive increase in Jewish migration and the establishing of a "Jewish national home" and opposed the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Having created a major problem in the region, increasingly exacerbated by continued but clandestine Jewish migration and Zionist terrorist organisations, and unable to meet neither the demands of the Palestinians nor those of the Jewish settlers, who by 1947 comprised 30% of the population, Attlee's Labour government then sought to relinquish its mandate and presented the problem to the newly formed UN.
At the UN, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq immediately proposed that Palestine should be declared independent, since it was the only mandated territory in the Middle East not to have this status, but this proposal was defeated. The UN General Assembly appointed a Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) to investigate and suggest solutions to the problem of Palestine. A proposal from the Soviet Union and Poland that the Committee should also submit proposals on the question of establishing "the independent democratic state of Palestine" was rejected but UNSCOP was authorised to consider the issue of Jewish refugees from Europe. From the outset, the UN refused to consider the possibility of an independent Palestinian state. As a consequence, when UNSCOP subsequently conducted its investigations in Palestine and Europe, Palestinian representatives refused to co-operate with it. Nevertheless, it concluded that Britain's mandate should be terminated and independence declared. However, it suggested two proposals regarding independence. The proposal of the majority of UNSCOP members, despite Palestinian objections, was for partition, and the creation of two independent states but with a unified economy. The minority proposal was for a federated state. It was also recognised by UNSCOP that further Jewish immigration into Palestine should be restricted. However, the policy of the British administration in Palestine, which was to restrict Jewish migration, only exacerbated the situation in the wake of the atrocities carried out against Europe's Jewish population by the Nazis and their allies. A climate existed in which the UN was forced to take action in relation to the demands and needs of Jewish refugees from Europe, as well as in relation to the rights of the Palestinians.
In September 1947, the UN General Assembly constituted itself as an Ad Hoc Committee and began deliberating on the future of Palestine. The United States favoured partition. The Arab states and the representatives of the Palestinians rejected the partition proposal out of hand, and reiterated their position that the majority population must be granted the right to independence. The British government stated that it would implement any plan as long as there was agreement by "both Arabs and Jews". If there was no such agreement, the government announced that some other authority would have to implement it. However, at the same time it announced its intention to withdraw its forces as soon as possible. Since there was no likelihood of any such agreement, the government's declared intention could only exacerbate the existing problem, which it and previous British governments had created.
In November 1947, the UN General Assembly discussed and voted on the two proposals. Although some states still argued that the UN had no authority to make any decision about a mandated territory it was agreed despite strong opposition and many abstentions that the proposal to partition Palestine should be put to a full vote of the General Assembly. The representative of the British government lamented the fact that no consensus had been reached. It refused to allow British troops to implement a decision that had not been agreed by both the Arab and Jewish populations in Palestine.
In the vote on partition on November 29, there were 33 votes in favour and 13 against with 10 abstentions. All the Arab states and those states with predominantly Muslim population voted against partition, as did Cuba, Greece and India. Britain, which abstained in the voting, was to withdraw by August 1948 and a Jewish and Arab state would become independent by October 1948. Palestine was to be divided into eight parts - three to be allocated to the new Jewish state, and three to the Palestinians. Jerusalem was to be administered by the UN initially for 10 years. There was to be an economic union between the two states but about half of the population of the Jewish state were Palestinian Arabs. Violence in Palestine, from the Jewish settlers increased and Britain announced it would evacuate its troops and administration in May 1948, i.e. before any UN forces could be introduced.
This created a situation in which both the Zionists and the Arab states threatened to intervene. It was during this period of instability and uncertainty that the massacre at Deir Yassin occurred in April 1948 and Palestinian refugees estimated at over 700,000 began to flee from those areas allocated to the new Jewish state and other areas of Palestine. In this climate, there were calls from the US and others to stop the process of partition and declare a UN trusteeship over Palestine but Israel declared its independence on May 14 the day before British withdrawal. Even before this date, forces from Arab states had entered Palestine and Zionist forces had entered not only the designated territory of the Jewish state but also other areas of Palestine too including Jerusalem. Effectively a state of war existed in Palestine and the UN was forced to send in a mediator, who was subsequently assassinated by the Zionists, and to conduct peace negotiations. Such was the birth of the Zionist state of Israel.
In various ways the trade union movement has taken a stand across Britain in international solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle to end occupation and the latest invasion of Gaza.
A TUC statement states that the General Council was "deeply concerned by the escalating violence and unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza and Israel". 
It called for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Middle East" and for the following of international law. Unfortunately it also equates resistance with terrorism. At the same time it calls for an end to "collective punishment". The General Council statement says, "The TUC stands in solidarity with all working people, their friends, families and communities and opposes any attempt to divide us."
It continues: "The current siege of Gaza, which comes on top of a 16-year air, sea and land blockade, has cut off food, water, electricity and fuel supplies. This is leading to a humanitarian disaster. The UN has stated that such measures amount to a form of collective punishment which is prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention. We call on the UK government and international community to support the opening of humanitarian corridors and to facilitate access to humanitarian aid and stand in solidarity with emergency and humanitarian workers."
It also points out: "Gazans who work in Israel have been prevented from returning home and some have been transferred to the West Bank, after being physically assaulted and their personal belongings confiscated.
"The TUC is appalled by the destruction of Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, which killed hundreds of patients, healthcare workers and families that had been seeking refuge in and around the hospital.
"We support a road to a just peace in Israel and Palestine. UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has acknowledged that, "This most recent violence does not come in a vacuum. The reality is that it grows out of a long-standing conflict, with a 56-year long occupation and no political end in sight.
"The TUC has long-standing democratically agreed policy in relation to Palestine and Israel. We have long called for an end to the military occupation of Palestinian territory and the blockade of Gaza, and respect for all Palestinian rights including the right to self-determination and the right to return.
"The TUC urges the UK government and parliamentarians across the political spectrum and in all four nations to support genuine efforts towards a just, comprehensive and lasting peace that is consistent with international law, including ending settlement expansion, and is based on a two-state solution, which promotes equality, democracy and respect for human and labour rights. And we will continue to work closely with, and through, the International Trade Union Confederation [ITUC] to support efforts to secure this lasting peace".
On October 26, public sector union UNISON stated  that the union "supports the call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel to allow the delivery of vital humanitarian assistance. The union condemns the rising death toll of Palestinian civilians - especially among children - caused by Israel's bombardment of Gaza.
"We express our concern at the collapse of vital public services - particularly healthcare - and reiterate our call for the release of all the hostages being held by Hamas.
"UNISON encourages our members and branches to take action calling for a ceasefire, including joining peaceful protests and contacting their members of parliament. UNISON will be making donations to Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Red Cross and encourages branches to do the same.
"UNISON is deeply concerned by the dramatic increase in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents. Anti-racism and the right to treated with dignity and respect, irrespective of race or creed, are fundamental values of our union. All members should be able to feel safe in their places of work and the communities in which they live.
"Finally, UNISON calls on the British government and the international community to support a ceasefire leading to renewed talks aimed at achieving a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel, as the only way to secure long-term peace in the Middle East."
MENA [Middle East and North Africa] Solidarity Network has also been organising solidarity amongst trade unionists . It made a statement on October 20 titled "Trade unionists must stand with Palestine" It says that as trade unionists in Britain they wish to respond to the urgent call for solidarity issued by Palestinian trade unions. They say: "Palestinian trade unions call on our counterparts internationally and all people of conscience to end all forms of complicity with Israel's crimes."
The call further states: "Israel has demanded that 1.1 million Palestinians evacuate the northern half of Gaza, whilst subjecting them to constant bombardment. This ruthless move is part of Israel's plan, backed by unwavering support and active participation from the US and majority of European states, to carry out unprecedented and heinous massacres against 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza and to ethnically cleanse it altogether.
"This collective punishment of the population of Gaza has been encouraged by the British government which has made no criticism of Israeli's actions or its long history of systematic discrimination and violence against the Palestinians. No wonder Palestinians fear a second Nakba, or catastrophe, referring to the mass dispossession and ethnic clearing of up to a million Palestinians in 1948 with the creation of the Israeli state. The current inhabitants of Gaza are direct descendants of the dispossessed of '48.
"The bombing of al-Ahli Baptist hospital, leaving at least 500 dead, underlines the horror of the Israeli assault on Gaza.
"Sunak and Starmer say they stand with Israel against the Hamas attacks but have been silent about the fate of Gaza. Together with the actions and statements from other Western governments this has sent a signal to Israel that it can act with impunity.
"We demand that Britain ends its military and political support for Israel's actions.
"Britain continues to issue government approved export licences to allow arms sales to Israel for example - between 2016 and 2020 alone these amounted to the value of £387 million in arms sales. And Britain has announced that it is sending two Royal Navy ships together with surveillance aircraft to the eastern Mediterranean in another clear signal of support for Israel's actions.
"We urge all trade unions to stand with the Palestinian people in Gaza and beyond. Every union should debate what steps can be taken to challenge British complicity with Israel's war machine and the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians. As a first step, we urge every trade unionist to attend demonstrations in support of the Palestinians along with their union banners to show they are not alone in their struggle for justice."
Among the first trade unions to issue public announcements standing with Palestine was the RMT.  In a tweet it says that "following the call for solidarity by @WorkersinPales1, the National Executive Committee of Britain's @RMTunion voted to support Palestine solidarity demonstrations, fundraise for Gaza, and oppose the delivery of weapons to the Israeli regime."
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) states that it has affiliations that are long standing with all trade unions. It recognises the importance of working with trade unions which have a long history of supporting international causes such as the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. PSC works closely with trade unions and the largest trade unions in the UK are affiliated to PSC - while a growing number of trade union branches and regions are affiliating to the campaign. 
 Issued by the TUC on October 18, 2023
On November 2, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution calling for the lifting of the all-sided US blockade of Cuba. There were 187 votes in favour, two against (United States and Israel) and one abstention (Ukraine). This is the 31st consecutive year that the majority of UN members demand the US blockade be lifted, leaving the US more isolated than ever.
Last year, 185 member states had voted in favour of the resolution. The United States and Israel opposed it, while Brazil and Ukraine abstained. This year, Brazil rallied to vote in favour of the resolution.
This is a resounding victory for the Cuban people and government who refuse to submit to the most cruel and inhuman US dictate. It is also a victory for the peoples of the world who are actively demanding an end to the US blockade of Cuba and the removal of Cuba from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism. In the context of the peoples' movement today, which is rising up en masse to oppose the Zionist genocide in Palestine, the resounding vote to end the criminal US blockade of Cuba and reject this inhumanity is yet another important indication that the current domination of international affairs by the United States must be ended. Justice will prevail!
The Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) writes:
Write to the US ambassador in the UK to demand that the US government remove Cuba from its State Sponsors of Terrorism list and end the inhumane blockade. Sign today and demand that Cuba is removed from the US State Sponsors of Terrorism list. The link and the text of the letter is given below.
#OFF THE LIST (https://cuba-solidarity.org.uk/offthelist/)
Dear Ambassador Jane Hartley,
We are writing to you to urge the US Government to remove Cuba from its 'State Sponsors of Terrorism' (SSOT) list, a designation which we believe to be both unjust and inhumane in its impact on the Cuban people.
As you will be aware, Cuba's listing as an SSOT was implemented by President Trump on the eve of his departure from office in January 2021. Since then there have been numerous international calls to reverse the action. The presence of Colombian guerrillas in Cuba has been cited to justify the designation, however it is internationally accepted that they were there to participate in official peace talks sponsored by the Norwegian Government, which Cuba was hosting.
In fact, following the ceasefire agreement with the ELN guerrilla group, former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called on President Biden to remove Cuba from the list, saying: "Cuba should be applauded for the crucial role it played in helping to end decades of conflict and facilitate reconciliation in Colombia, and should not face sanctions for having done so." Since his election in 2022, President Gustavo Petro has also pushed for Cuba to be removed from the list and has called its continued inclusion a "profound injustice."
Not only is the inclusion on the list unjust, it also has a devastating effect on the lives of the Cuban people. It prevents Cuba from using international banking systems and makes it increasingly difficult to acquire basic necessities such as fuel, food, medicines and hygiene products. Forty-five international banks immediately terminated relations with Cuba when it was returned to the list.
There are currently profound shortages in Cuba. Like many countries Cuba is suffering from the world economic crisis, the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, and relentless damage to infrastructure by hurricanes and floods as a consequence of global warming. Uniquely it must also contend with an ongoing 61-year blockade and the extra sanctions that inclusion on the SSOT list brings. Both undoubtedly cost lives in Cuba, and contribute to a humanitarian crisis which is fuelling increased migration from the island to the US.
International travel to the United States suffers too. People from 40 countries, including the UK, now have to apply for a full visa if they have visited Cuba, rather than simply applying for an ESTA waiver.
In the last year of this presidential term, President Biden has the chance to make a humanitarian gesture that would genuinely make a difference to the lives of millions of Cubans. Such a move would be welcomed by the international community which has been calling for an end to the blockade, and has voted for it in the UN General Assembly for 31 years running.
As the brief period of cooperation between the US and Cuba under the Obama administration showed, both countries and peoples gain when a path of peace and engagement is followed.
On October 31, in what RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said was a resounding victory for rail workers, as well as a win for passengers and community groups, the government completely retracted plans to shut down ticket offices . TSSA, the union representing rail ticket office workers, expressed its delight at the victory .
Throughout the dispute until the climbdown, the government had given its full backing to the plans. The Department for Transport had approved the initial proposals, and just last month, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak backed the ticket office closures as "the right thing for the British public and British taxpayers", claiming without any context that only one ticket in ten is sold in ticket offices.
In their turnaround, Transport Secretary Mark Harper stated that the government had asked train operators to withdraw their proposals due to failure to meet high passenger standards. In an attempt to shift the blame solely onto management, washing the government's hands of responsibility, he said the government had made it "clear to the rail industry throughout the process that any resulting proposals must meet a high threshold of serving passengers".
In response, a senior rail industry source was quoted by the BBC as saying: "They have been made to sell these plans, defend them and change them to try and get them over the line. All in the face of the inevitable onslaught of criticism. All of these plans were approved by officials and ministers at the DfT. To say they fell short of their expectations is totally disingenuous." 
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies, said that it will keep looking for other ways to "improve passenger experience while delivering value for the taxpayer".
It could be said that this apparent divide between the government and the rail industry is itself disinformative. The government represents the private interests that have completely usurped public authority. They are two sides of the same coin, albeit divided amongst themselves into competing factions.
For its part, Labour simply played its role as electoral machine and took the opportunity for an attack, with shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh calling it a "humiliating climbdown", with the cancelled plans having been "a colossal waste of taxpayers' money".
Along with the workers and their unions, various sections have been saying No! to the closures.
Transport Focus and London Travelwatch had objected to the closures, citing 750,000 responses in a public consultation. They had successfully campaigned for various changes, such as staff availability times, but concerns about the capabilities of the ticket machines, accessibility, passenger assistance and information all remained unresolved.
Disability campaigners and five Labour metro mayors had staged protests and threatened legal challenges to the plans. Disabled-led Transport for All praised the outcome, but criticised the government's marginalisation of their concerns, saying that "it is appalling that disabled people's concerns were dismissed for so long". Demanding their collective rights has been important in this struggle.
Communities from Stourbridge to Sunderland have organised in various locations to defend their right to proper transport services.
A number of MPs labelled the plans "too far, too fast". This is not simply a warning to the government over its tactics. From the perspective of all affected, it raises the question as to whether these plans were floated to measure the response, which again points to the narrow vested interests that the government represents and how they and their government continue to seek ways to further plunder public services and carry forward the anti-social offensive.
Workers' Weekly congratulates the rail workers in their victory in this issue, a victory that proves the correctness of the stand that "Enough is Enough", and proving that the government and rail operators have been comprehensively denounced in the court of public opinion. The planned closures had been an important part of the workers' long-running dispute with the government and rail operators - a dispute over pay, jobs, working conditions and the very future of this key service. It is a win that has taken numerous actions and strikes to achieve.
The closures were presented as a means to save money by cutting labour "costs". However, the reality is that labour is not a cost and is precisely what creates new value - the issue for public services is rather how this value is realised, or paid for. Relying on technology to employ fewer workers is an attempt to service private profit at the expense of service to the public and the interests of the rail workers.
The success is also a step in the direction of public decision-making over the future of such social programmes and the direction they should take. Allegedly "improving" the rail network's quality through sacking workers and shoring up profits is no solution to the serious problems currently affecting rail transport. Instead, improving working conditions, job security and pay are crucial for a successful service that serves the needs of workers and the public. Workers need more control and empowerment over the economy and matters that affect their living and working conditions, which includes but is not limited to reversing privatisation, to protect their claims over the value they create and reduce living costs, of which transport is an important factor. Attacks on the claims of the workers and their job security, privatisation and pay-the-rich schemes that drain the money required for reinvestment are not solutions; they exacerbate the problem and should be ended.
The route that continues to be taken by the government is of total incoherence in transport policy, and rail workers are not complacent after their victory. "We are now calling for an urgent summit with the government, train operating companies, disabled and community organisations and passenger groups to agree a different route for the rail network that guarantees the future of our ticket offices and stations staff jobs to delivers a safe, secure and accessible service that puts passengers before profit," said Mick Lynch.
Such talks should have the outlook of forming a new mechanism to discuss with all concerned the content of this different direction. Workers and their organisations in all sectors will continue to build the mechanisms for change. They will never be marginalised. They will look forward to independently empowering themselves, becoming decision-makers, speaking and acting in their own name so as to control their own destiny and secure the future of society, by guaranteeing the rights of all.
1. "RMT welcomes resounding victory against ticket office closures", RMT, October 31, 2023
2. "Rail ticket office closures at the end of the line", TSSA, October 31, 2023
3. "Plans to close rail ticket offices in England scrapped", BBC News, November 1, 2023
Following the period of extended struggle to safeguard the future of education, which has seen strikes across schools, college and universities, the aims and future of education is breaking out into open discussion. Three recent articles in Schools Week serve to highlight this important development in various ways.
In one article, Mary Bousted, the former General Secretary of the NEU, described the distraction tactics employed by the Conservative Party at their recent conference , which could be said to be an attempt to win in the court of public opinion through wrecking public opinion.
Mary Bousted points out that the party often talks of the present "administration" rather than plainly use the word government, in an "attempt to draw a dividing line between Rishi Sunak and his government and the four previous Conservative prime ministers who have been in power for over a decade," instead painting a picture of a "clean slate". It might also be added that the past 13 years have not been so much marked by singular, consistent rule by a party in power, but rather a succession of factions into which this cartel party has descended. And that further, the same might be said of the cartel parties in opposition.
Policy announcements, she writes, are used to distract from serious matters of concern, such as the £11.4 billion repair backlog in England's school buildings. Her article also highlights the announcement of plans that have no chance of being implemented, such as Sunak's recent announcement to replace A-levels with a British "baccalaureate".
"This is not policy making with a purpose," says Bousted. "It is policy announcement to distract - to be seen to be doing something. If the reports are right and the DfE knew nothing about this announcement, then the lack of serious intent to engage in much-needed curriculum and assessment reform becomes crystal clear."
Current NEU General Secretary Daniel Kebede in another article responded to Home Secretary Suella Braverman's speech in Washington on September 26, which overtly claimed that "multiculturalism has failed", and that migration poses an "existential challenge" to the "political and cultural institutions of the West" .
With such talk - a particularly blatant example of the racism of the British state - he argues that "she is pinning a label to each and every student who is, or may be thought to be, from a migrant family. She is making their lives more hazardous and adding to the risks that schools must deal with."
It is teachers, acting independently, who hold the solutions. They have, says Kebede, "worked over generations to develop inclusive practices, to learn new ways of sharing cultures. They have done this against the grain of political rhetoric and government choices."
"Government policy," he says, "cuts out questions of 'race' and racism from programmes of teacher education. Government has sponsored a report which, in the words of the Runnymede Trust, seeks to 'pit the white working class against ethnic minorities'. Through frequent announcements and 'non-statutory guidance', ministers try to create a chilling effect, so that schools will be deterred from responding to issues that it is vital for our students to engage with."
An unsigned article reports that education leaders have branded Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's 10-year reform of post-16 education - including plans to replace A-levels and T-levels with a baccalaureate-style Advanced British Standard - "a joke", when schools face serious issues in staff recruitment, collapsed support services, and ongoing problems of recovery from the Covid pandemic .
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan on October 4 presented the case for "breadth" in terms of the coming demands of business. The generation beginning school today, reports the article, would on leaving "be joining a labour market that will be unrecognisable to us. Their jobs will be shaped by artificial intelligence and quantum."
The echoes of the old "knowledge-based economy" of the days of Blair, under which education was structured around "success in the global market" are clear. "Around the world students need to keep their options open... There is strength not just in depth, but also in breadth," she said. "The world is changing faster than we've ever known."
Just as with the scandalous attack on education that the Sunak and Keegan promise in their crackdown on "rip-off degree courses", the government's logic is that the purpose of education is to set people up to "succeed" as individuals, give them the "opportunity" to earn. By sleight of hand, this is to identify the needs of students at all levels with those of business. The crucial question of who decides the content of the curriculum (for example, the new broader "baccalaureate") and with what aim is left out. Meanwhile, the arrangements are created, such as through academisation, where big business can directly control educational content.
The fight is on for the future of education, as a right that should serve the people. On all fronts, it is increasingly clear that it is only the teachers themselves who hold the solutions to the serious problems facing schools.
1. "No smoke and mirrors can hide the parlous state of our schools", Mary Bousted, former General Secretary, NEU, Schools Week, October 3, 2023
2. "Suella Braverman just made safeguarding harder (again)", Daniel Kebede, General Secretary, NEU, Schools Week, October 5, 2023
3. "Reforming post-16 right now Sunak? You're joking, say leaders", Schools Week, October 5, 2023
National Education Union (NEU) Press Release, October 27, 2023
Responding to today's announcement of a 5% increase to the employer's contribution to the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS), the National Education Union has vowed to provide robust support to members working in the independent sector, whose pensions might be threatened as a consequence of the rise.
The cost for teachers working in local authority and academy schools will be paid by the government for 2024-2025; independent schools will have to meet the rise in full.
Some private schools will seek to leave the scheme, which would lead to their teacher staff having significantly worse pensions. Others may seek 'phased withdrawal', ostensibly protecting teachers currently in the scheme while putting new teachers on inferior defined contribution provision.
The TPS has a valuation every four years.
Despite lower-than-expected pay rises and a fall in the expected rise in life expectancy - which would point to a reduction in contribution rates - in the 2020 valuation, the liabilities have increased on account of a technical change imposed by the government. The discount rate - the formula used to calculate the rate of interest on assets and liabilities - has been altered from CPI+2.4 per cent to CPI+1.7 per cent. This has had the effect of increasing the employer contribution from 23.6% to 28.6%.
This technical change to the way in which the scheme is valued will have serious detrimental consequences for some teachers working in the independent sector and ramifications for all. The government needs a cohesive strategy for the profession as a whole.
It will divide the profession into those who have a good pension and those who do not.
Commenting on the change, Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"Our members working in independent schools are dedicated professionals, committed to and working hard on behalf of their pupils. They have earned their pensions.
"To face the threat of losing a decent pension is unacceptable. It should set alarm bells ringing across society.
"Attracting top quality graduates to the teaching profession is mission critical to the country's future prosperity. This will not happen with the erosion of both pay and pensions.
"The Government needs to find a cohesive plan for the whole teaching profession. They must ensure that remuneration is attractive and working hours reasonable. Gillian Keegan needs to demonstrate the value she places on educating our children.
"To those employers considering seeking to enforce detrimental change against staff wishes using the pernicious practice of 'fire and rehire', the NEU cautions them to consider very carefully the damage it will cause to staff morale. We will fight employers industrially on this.
"The NEU is not prepared to sit back while our members see their contracts of employment ripped up and their pensions snatched away. The NEU will robustly support our members to take all necessary action to defend their terms and conditions."
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