Guantanamo is the new Dachao - and the US imperialists are the true inheritors of Nazi fascism
When Obama covered himself in glory by promising to close down the Guantánamo concentration camp by the end of 2009, many on the petty-bourgeois left crowed loudly. The neo-cons were dead, long live the new age!
Yet, four years on, the camp not only maintains its illegal squat on Cuban soil, but, on 7 March, the president issued an executive order, at a stroke ‘legalising’ indefinite incarceration without trial within its walls.
Now it was the turn of the Republican chair of the House Homeland Security Committee to crow, saying: “I commend the Obama administration for issuing this executive order. The bottom line is that it affirms the Bush administration policy that our government has the right to detain dangerous terrorists until the cessation of hostilities.”
Quite so. Let all who hailed the rise of Obama the peace-prize winner now take heed.
The majority of the men illegally detained in the camp have been thrust into a limbo aptly described by Cuban paper Granma: “They have not been accused of any crime which would require a trial, but neither have they been acknowledged as belonging to an enemy force, which would have guaranteed them recognition and rights reserved for prisoners of war.” (‘Guantánamo: endurance and shame’, 11 April 2013)
Of the 166 inmates held captive within ‘Gitmo’, under conditions which UN human-rights chief Navi Piallay felt obliged to denounce as being in “clear breach of international law”, only nine have been convicted or even charged with any crime. According to justice department lawyers, 48 of the men “could not be prosecuted in military commissions or in federal court because evidentiary problems would hamper a trial”, or, to put it in plain English: there’s no proof other than ‘confessions’ extorted through torture that they have ever done anything wrong.
Sooner than follow the principle of innocent till proven guilty, however, these kidnap victims of US imperialism have been summarily branded as a threat and told they can’t go home. As one of the defence team, Lt Col Barry Wingard, summed it up: “Forty-eight men will be condemned to die never being given a trial or given an opportunity to defend themselves. They are essentially dead men who just happen to breathe.” (‘Men live in Guantánamo animal cages, will never get trial,’ RT.com, 24 March 2013)
Half the inmates have in theory been cleared for transfer or resettlement, but wait in vain for this to translate into reality.
The ‘lucky few’ who have the dubious privilege of actually facing prosecution by a kangaroo court are in reality faring no better. Cases are getting bogged down as numerous documents arguing the defence case are snooped on or deleted in an obvious sabotage of even this travesty of legal process.
As RT.com reported recently: “Pre-trial hearings in the Guantánamo Bay war-crimes tribunals have been delayed to address the disappearance of defence legal documents from Pentagon computers, military officials said …
“Defence lawyers representing inmates at the prison camp were ordered Wednesday to halt all computer transmission of sensitive material because of a security risk. The problem reportedly stems from a Pentagon-provided computer server that was supposed to transmit information from Washington to Guantánamo. Instead of transmitting files effectively, however, the system has been deleting documents since January of this year.” (‘Guantánamo Bay hearing delayed after mysterious disappearance of legal files’, 11 April 2013)
The lawyer for one defendant noted that officials had mishandled over half a million defence emails and were even trawling through the defence team’s internet searches.
Stripped of even the hope of a trial, let alone repatriation or justice, a growing number of the men have resorted to their sole remaining avenue of protest. In a last-ditch attempt to force their plight before the world’s attention, more than a hundred of them have now joined a hunger strike that was initiated in the first week of February.
The response has been brutal, including an assault with rubber bullets, ‘justified’ by the pretence that inmates had equipped themselves with improvised weapons. A lawyer for one of the defendants pointed out the extreme improbability of this assertion, given that the sharpest object prisoners are permitted are the refills from ballpoint pens, stripped of their plastic casing.
In a vain effort to break the hunger strike, the men have been cruelly separated into isolation cells. But these victims of imperialist brutality are made of sterner stuff, as is clear from the words of one such, Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel.
This brave man was able to tell his story via a phone call to the legal charity Reprieve. His account, which has been printed under the headline ‘Gitmo is killing me’, is in its essentials common to that of many of his fellow prisoners.
“One man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago. I’ve been on a hunger strike since 10 February and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.
“I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial. I could have been home years ago – no one seriously thinks I am a threat – but still I am here.
“Years ago the military said I was a ‘guard’ for Osama bin Laden, but this was nonsense, like something out of the American movies I used to watch. They don’t even seem to believe it anymore. But they don’t seem to care how long I sit here, either.
“When I was at home in Yemen, in 2000, a childhood friend told me that in Afghanistan I could do better than the $50 a month I earned in a factory, and support my family. I’d never really travelled, and knew nothing about Afghanistan, but I gave it a try.
“I was wrong to trust him. There was no work. I wanted to leave, but had no money to fly home. After the American invasion in 2001, I fled to Pakistan like everyone else. The Pakistanis arrested me when I asked to see someone from the Yemeni embassy. I was then sent to Kandahar, and put on the first plane to Gitmo.”
After Samir joined the hunger strike, he was force-fed, a supposedly humanitarian procedure which in reality is a particularly nasty form of torture.
“A team from the ERF (Extreme Reaction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in. They tied my hands and feet to the bed. They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand. I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed. During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet. They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading and unnecessary. I was not even permitted to pray.
“I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.
“I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11.00pm, when I’m sleeping.
“There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren’t enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings; nothing is happening at regular intervals. They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up.
“During one force-feeding the nurse pushed the tube about 18 inches into my stomach, hurting me more than usual, because she was doing things so hastily. I called the interpreter to ask the doctor if the procedure was being done correctly or not. It was so painful that I begged them to stop feeding me. The nurse refused to stop feeding me.”
He concluded: “The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply. At least 40 people here are on a hunger strike. People are fainting with exhaustion every day. I have vomited blood. And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment.
“Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made. I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late.” (Printed in the New York Times, 15 April 2013)
These hunger strikers are resisting imperialism with the only means they possess – their bodies. Even as their religious faith is abused; even as they are locked away in isolation cells, beaten up and subjected to all the horrors of force feeding; even as they are routinely exposed to the thuggery of their captors and the chicanery of their prosecutors, they continue to resist and stand tall in the ranks of all those who struggle against imperialist oppression.
In their resolute stand they will serve as an inspiration to all who fight against oppression, broadening the axis of resistance ever wider. In particular their dignity and courage should inspire all workers in Britain who are struggling within the belly of the beast itself.
Let us take courage from their example and sever the social-democratic ties that cripple our unions and drag the workers’ movement along behind the imperialist war chariot.
No cooperation with imperialist oppression!
Shut down Guantánamo; free the captives!
Return Guantánamo to Cuban sovereignty; Yankees go home!
Margaret Thatcher and the Wicked Witch
So the first fruits of the Leveson Inquiry’s push for press censorship turn out to be a BBC ban on playing ‘Ding Dong! the Witch is Dead’.
How successful this belated attempt to starve Judy Garland of the oxygen of publicity will be in suppressing unseemly public glee at the passing of Baroness Thatcher is doubtful.
But if Sunday’s unlikely victim of nervous self-censorship is just a musical theatre child prodigy from the thirties, we can be sure that future victims will include those with the ‘bad taste’ to speak out against the criminal wars and domestic repression engineered by our ‘democratic’ rulers.
With the NUJ busy patting Leveson on the back and the BBC jumping into self-censorship without waiting to be pushed, only journalists of unusual courage can be expected to resist the big freeze that’s coming.
Who can doubt now the urgent need to build a movement of collective non-cooperation with the war plans of our masters, at home as well as abroad?
Even comrades can take time out to watch TV and catch up on the propaganda given out not on the news or in documentaries, but in regular drama or comedy programmes. On Sunday 31 March there were three high-budget dramas on offer. Foyle’s War (ITV), The Village (BBC1) and The Labyrinth (Channel 4).
Foyle’s War, which makes a hero of a detective turned MI5 agent in the immediate post-war period, lends itself to propaganda, but it is cleverish and nuanced and avoids the obvious howlers by having what it presents as a ‘balance’ of Labour and Tory supporters among the secondary characters.
That does not mean that Foyle’s War is not poisonous, though. It most certainly is. One of the murder victims on the night in question turned out to be an NVKD agent and, for the benefit of the young and/or ignorant in the TV audience, the NVKD was described as the “Russian Gestapo” and all references to Stalin bracketed him with Hitler.
There is no doubt at all that Foyle’s War is being used as yet another vehicle to merge Stalin and Hitler in the public mind.
There were also more domestic bits of propaganda in the show. One of the characters was standing as the Labour candidate in a by-election. He was presented as high-minded and principled, while his election agent, who wanted to use (wait for it) information received about the Tory candidate having been a black-market profiteer, is painted as unprincipled for wanting to use ‘dirty tricks’ and talk about ‘personalities’ rather than policies.
Put aside what we all think about the Labour party (now and in the 1940s) and think of the propaganda agenda behind this condemnation of the election agent for revealing that the opposing candidate was a black marketeer. Foyle’s War presents the revelation in the press as ‘dirty tricks’, while the actual crime of black marketeering is sidelined as irrelevant.
This is exactly the thinking the ruling elite want us to have in the post-Leveson world. Doubles all round for Foyle’s War for toeing the bourgeois line.
As to the other two Sunday night offerings, The Labyrinth was an overblown costume drama which presented the cathars as a wonderful bunch of people unfairly persecuted by catholic villains, the catholics in question being presented as so stage-evil the show could have been written by a bunch of UDA men.
The cathars were all so long ago, it might not seem to matter, but nothing is too remote to be used for bourgeois propaganda. The cathars actually make unpleasant heroes: cack-handed Malthusians before their time, they believed the world was ruled by the devil and that it was wrong to have children as birth trapped a wonderful free-roaming soul in an evil material body.
Last, but certainly not least, the cathars thought suicide was not only acceptable but desirable as it purified the soul.
Arguably, the Catholic Church did the world a favour (for once) by getting rid of these miserable negative lunatics, but here in 2013, when the bourgeoisie wants us to think ‘There is no alternative’ to the capitalism-devil that rules the world (and those of us who don’t like it can go top ourselves), we find the demented cathars glorified on mainstream TV.
Co-incidence? Not on your nelly/telly.
Lastly there was The Village, trailed as the thinking person’s Downton Abbey. Over endless episodes, beginning in 1914, it is supposed to show a hundred years of English history through the life of one Derbyshire village in general and through the life of one working-class man in particular.
About 8 years old when the story begins, ‘Bert’ has a mad drunk violent father whose behaviour would be considered extreme and unacceptable among the very worst of the urban criminal lumpenproletariat, and would just not have been tolerated in a small village where people and families had not only all known each other for generations but were quite often related.
This confusing of the working class with a savage and drunken lumpenproletariat is now a cultural commonplace, and reinforcing this deliberate conflation is the essential propaganda message of The Village. But there are other pernicious messages, too.
As we approach Cameron’s great First World War Commemoration Bonanza, perhaps the most important (in the first episode and presumably beyond) was the presentation of the reaction of the village population to the first world war. Not one dissident voice was raised on The Village. Instead, the very moment war was declared, all the young men marched off happily.
In reality, there were many immediate volunteers, cock-sure they would be home by Christmas, but to present the entire working-class population as willing volunteers is a travesty of the truth.
Two days before war was declared (on 4 August 1914), there was a massive anti-war demonstration in Trafalgar Square. Much like the massive demonstration against the Iraq war, the protest was ignored by the ruling elite (then fronted by the Liberals), who went to war anyway to protect their masters’ profits.
No doubt in years to come the bourgeoisie will try to present support for the Iraq war as universal too, but we know that was not so, and we must also remind a new generation (who will inevitably get caught up in the coming propaganda-fest) that the millions who endured or died in the great working-class massacre of WW1 were the victims of capitalism – and most of them had the nous to know it.
The true spirit of '45: A Soviet soldier hoists the red flag over the Reichstag in Berlin, marking the complete defeat of Nazi fascism.
There are some good bits in Spirit of ’45, the new film from Ken Loach. Some of the interviews and archive footage about working-class life in the 1930s are a poignant and timely reminder of the social horrors inflicted by capitalism in the throes of a global overproduction crisis – right down to the vermin-infested blankets and deadly absence of health care.
And the juxtaposition of such cruel personal reminiscence with the end-of-war scenes of jubilation and hope from 1945 could have set the context for a much more interesting film, taking a fresh look at the birth (and premature death) of the welfare state.
Instead, we are offered yet another panegyric on the supposed achievements of ‘old’ Labour ‘heroes’ like Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison.
Not a word is said about the imperialist superprofits upon which the ruling class crucially depended to subsidise these temporary and partial concessions to the working class.
Not a word is said about the poisonous pro-imperialist policy of the Labour government, hell-bent on preserving those same superprofits, no matter what the cost to the hundreds of millions of people locked in colonial bondage around the world.
Most glaring omission of all: not a word is said about the popular levels of enthusiasm aroused by the heroic exploits of the Red Army in putting fascism to the sword and in defending its own, infinitely superior version of a state that put the welfare of workers at the top of every agenda.
It was that threat of a good revolutionary example set by the Soviet Union that emboldened workers to demand “no return to the ’30s”. And it was the special role of Labour imperialism to help deliver a ‘welfare state’ – a pale capitalist imitation of the Soviet original – in such a way as would simultaneously tie the working class to the colonial agenda of monopoly capital and clear the way for the post-war reversion to anti-communist red-baiting (on a script written by Orwell, another of Loach’s ‘heroes’).
All of this is a closed book for the filmmaker.
Starved of any international context, the film stumbles on impressionistically, locked always behind the little-British narrowness that remains the trademark everywhere of ‘left’ social democracy.
After airing some woolly criticisms of the earlier shortcomings of the reforms (same old managers at the National Coal Board, failure to nationalise all transport), the film hastens on to the sudden arrival of the Bad Fairy, Thatcher, and her (unexplained and apparently personal) crusade to smash everything up.
Just one of the film’s talking heads makes a single brief reference to the overproduction crisis, but beyond that there is no attempt to explain what was fuelling the assault upon workers’ conditions and rights. In fact, having finished its history-hopping journey from the ’30s through ’45 to the advent of Thatcherism, nothing remains but to open the screen to a few soundbites from some pale anti-communist ‘left’ luminaries like Tony Benn, John Rees and Alex Gordon, before the film finally runs out of steam and the credits roll.
As the deepest ever overproduction crisis is pushing Britain’s ruling class to accelerate its dismantlement of the welfare state, Spirit of ’45 is an opportunity missed to examine not only what brought Britain’s hard-bitten imperialist rulers to make such serious concessions to workers in the first place, but also why those concessions were only ever going to be temporary while the capitalist system remained in place.
These are questions whose answers are urgently needed to permeate the workers’ movement if we are going to be successful in breaking out of the downward spiral of imperialist poverty, crisis and war. Lasting rights for workers will not be won by going back to the ‘good old’ reformist dreams of ’45 – days that inevitably led to where we are today – but by smashing the capitalist system and going forward to build socialism.
Protest in central London against cuts to welfare, 2012
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 9 February meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
Another illustration of the role played by Labour councillors in implementing so-called ‘ConDem’ cuts – actually capitalist cuts – is the behaviour of the local Labour group in Harlow.
Harlow Trades Council has long supported the work of Harlow Welfare Rights and Advice in its efforts to serve the often hard-pressed local community. Recognising the clear need for the services provided by HWRA, Labour’s General Committee supported its retention before Christmas. What’s more, when the continued existence of the body was challenged on some dubious legal technicality the GC voted for a mediated solution that would not deprive the people of Harlow of this service.
Yet at 7.30pm on 28 January, Labour-run Harlow council abruptly changed the HWRA locks, banning staff from entry and at a stroke bringing its vital work in the local community to a halt.
Whilst this act of vandalism was initiated by a civil servant (the council’s chief executive Malcolm Morley), one very disgruntled Labour councillor noted that “It is clear from my discussion with members of Labour’s cabinet that the leader and a majority of the cabinet are in agreement with the officers. Most notable for their full and active support of Malcolm Morley are leader Mark Wilkinson and cabinet member Tony Durcan.”
The yawning gap between Labour’s words and its deeds prompted the councillor to reflect: “I am very disappointed that councillors don’t have much of a say in running the council. The reason I became a councillor is to help people in Harlow, but so far I have not seen any changes apart from what the government want us to implement.”
The secretary of Harlow Trades Council, David Forman, has drawn some interesting conclusions from this experience, noting that “Labour councillors hide behind the law like a matador hides behind his red cloak, which merely conceals the tools of destruction.
“A failure to understand the class-based nature of the state, with the law and judiciary being key weapons in the armoury of the ruling class, leads those on the right and centre ground to see the state as neutral and benign.
“A deliberate rewriting of history … allows the labour movement to be lulled into thinking fine oratory and legal manoeuvres by the middle classes produces reforms. In reality, it is a series of struggles on the industrial front by a militant working class that leads to changes on the political front.
“All this obfuscation is designed to disarm the working class and make them dependent on their so-called ‘betters’, thus allowing Labour and reformist union leaders to spout the worn-out phrase: ‘There is no alternative’.”
It is indeed social democracy (including its ‘left’ face) that blunts the edge of class struggle and conceals from workers the only real alternative: socialism.
Trade unionists protest against blacklisting in central London, 9 February 2013
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 9 February meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
Three years on from the half-hearted raid on Ian Kerr’s ‘Consulting Association’ blacklisting scam and his conviction on data protection offences, the scandal is refusing to go away. (See Proletarian, December 2012)
Instead, thanks to the efforts of the Blacklist Support Group and workers fighting for redress both in the High Court and in the European Court of Human Justice, more and more is coming to light about the blanket surveillance of workers – in the construction industry and elsewhere.
It turns out that the CA blacklist was used for high-end government projects including the Olympics, the MOD, Portcullis House and the Jubilee Line, and speculation is mounting that blacklists were used in recruiting for Crossrail.
Whilst the range of building companies involved in snooping extends to just about every major operator, pride of place in this rogue’s gallery has gone to McAlpine, run by family scion Callum. He acted as chairman of the CA between 1993 and 1996, and all CA meetings took place at his office.
Under scrutiny by the Scottish Affairs Committee, McAlpine pleaded ignorance or a poor memory, but confessed to heavy use of the blacklist throughout 2008, ‘excusing’ himself on the plea that he was chasing ‘illegal’ immigrants, not union militants! Just how much there was to cover up became clear given the circumstances surrounding the company’s action in paying off Kerr’s £5,000 fine, his legal expenses and the redundancy pay-outs to CA’s staff.
Whilst Callum McAlpine got out the violin, claiming that the pay-off was a “humanitarian and reasonable action”, everything was done at the time to conceal the cosy McAlpine connection. McAlpine’s head of human resources, David Cochrane, himself acting as the last chairman of the CA, warned Kerr to hide the hush money in his daughter’s bank account.
As Kerr told the Scottish Affairs Committee in November, shortly before his death: “I had put myself at the front and took the flak … so that they wouldn’t be drawn into all of this. They would remain hidden.”
Now that Labour is out of the driving seat, there is much sound and fury to be heard at Westminster, with indignant opposition benches deploring the refusal of the ConDem government to take the blacklisting scandal seriously. It will be recalled, however, that Labour had the opportunity in 2009, when the scandal broke, to deal with the issue.
Indeed, Mandelson put an amendment to the Employment Relations Act through in 2010, supposedly fixing things. Yet it rapidly became clear that nothing had really changed. As the law stands, blacklisting as such is still neither unlawful nor a criminal act.
To get redress, it is necessary for the blacklisted worker not only to prove that he has been blacklisted, but also that his inclusion on that blacklist is the sole reason he is turned down for a job – a well-nigh impossible task, especially given the legal resources commanded by the companies.
And in any case, how can you seek redress if you don’t know you are on a blacklist in the first place? As of autumn 2012, only 194 of the 3,213 workers known by the Information Commissioner’s Office to have been blacklisted are aware of the fact. Nor is this surprising, since you can only find out if you are on a blacklist by phoning up the ICO and asking them.
Some might not unreasonably fear that asking the question is itself asking for trouble.
Labour in government had ample opportunity to ban blacklists in 2009. It failed to do so for the same reason as every other Labour government in history: because Labour is just as much a servant of the bourgeoisie as are the Tories against whom it rails.
Surveillance of workers did not begin with Kerr’s racket. The Consulting Association began its career in 1993 by paying £10,000 for an already-existing database of blacklisted names. The source of that database was the Economic League, of which Kerr was himself an employee.
The League was founded in 1919 to root out communist and left-wing organisations and individuals. Working closely with the British Empire Union fascists, it played a key role in attacking the general strike in 1926. Its founder had led the Naval Intelligence Division of the Admiralty through the first world war, and the chairman of the BBC sat on its council.
Through the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the League ran a comprehensive blacklisting service. Despite being regularly exposed in the press of the time, it seemed to enjoy a charmed existence, until the heat from a parliamentary inquiry in 1990 finally obliged the company to formally dissolve itself – only for its work to be taken up again by Sir Robert McAlpine and the Consulting Association.
The bourgeoisie can have every confidence that Kerr’s work will now be taken up again by other hands working to an identical agenda – until such time that the workers’ movement frees itself from the suffocating Labour embrace and takes meaningful action to stop it.
Just how corrupting an effect social democracy has upon the trade-union movement is clear from the evidence now emerging of collusion between some unions and the Consulting Association.
According to Construction News: “Evidence has emerged that suggests union representatives may have ‘liaised’ with contractors to blacklist workers from construction jobs. But an investigation by Construction News has uncovered documents that suggest union officials may also have provided information to the blacklist.
“One of the files from the blacklist, seen by CN, describes a worker, Michael Anderson, as ‘not recommended’ by Amicus … Mr Anderson’s redacted file says: ‘1997–1999. Worked at JLE [Jubilee Line Extension] during electricians’ dispute but not involved in any actions. 2005 Oct 26: Information received … that the above is ‘not recommended’ by Amicus.’ It adds: ‘Above information came from [redacted] of Amicus.’”
Mr Anderson’s summing up is damning: “I am an ordinary spark. I have spent long periods in unemployment. It is not just financial. It is everything.”
This echoes the testimony of another blacklisted electrician, Steve Acheson, the leader of the EPIU’s Manchester branch. Confronted with evidence related to union involvement in the collection of blacklist data, he told Construction News: “I have been a union member my whole life. It is a very hard decision whether to sue. But I have worked just two years in the last 12. Knowing that part of the reason is because of union involvement is very difficult to take.”
The January 2013 edition of Site Worker had this to say: “When it came to light, after the Information Commissioner’s Office exposed the Consulting Association’s construction blacklist in 2009, that some Unite and Ucatt officials had allegedly been supplying information about rank-and-file union members directly to the CA, a new trade-union low had been reached …
“Unite and Ucatt are disgustingly and disgracefully trying to cover up the conduct of these officials and to sweep this under the carpet. It has been reported that, in 2006, the then general secretary of Unite, Derek Simpson may well have known about the CA and its activities yet did not act.”
Cleaning up the unions must begin by breaking the link with Labour.
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 12 January meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
Riots in Tottenham by Surian Soosay
The announcement of an across-the-board 1 percent cap on benefit rises is the latest salvo in a capitalist offensive against the working class.
By pretending to champion the ‘workers against the shirkers’ (ie, the employed versus the jobless), the government hopes to divide and undermine the working class. Labour’s feeble response, pointing out that the benefit cut will hit low-pay working households dependent on tax credits too, merely ropes off another section of the working class (‘strivers’, a 21st-century version of the ‘deserving poor’), further reinforcing the debilitating notion that some capitalist cuts are ‘fairer’ than others.
Meanwhile, the salami slicer grinds on relentlessly in every borough, regardless of which party is turning the handle.
Birmingham city council intends to cut £600m from the £1.2bn budgets under its control. More than a thousand council workers have already been made redundant, with another 1,000 to follow this year, and council leaders predict that by 2017, 7,000 jobs will have gone.
The leader of the Labour group on the council refused demands that the council should defy central government and pass a ‘deficit budget’, instead announcing “the end of local government as we know it”, entailing some services being completely wound up and others pared to the bone – eg, fortnightly or monthly rubbish collections.
In their account of this meeting, Birmingham Against Cuts reported that “One young person from Handsworth who was there with the Save Birmingham Youth Service campaign talked passionately about how his youth worker had helped him, and without the youth service (which faces further cuts this year) he would probably be following a life of crime. He said he could see another riot and asked ‘Do you really think you can handle what will happen if you cut youth services?’”
Or, as the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Yves Daccord, puts it in a wider context: “If the economic pressure on people goes on, yes it will have a social impact on people. And if young people especially don’t see any future, any options, you might be confronted also with unrest – like in 2011 – and there is no reason that this unrest will not repeat itself one day.” Daccord went on to draw a parallel with the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Even if the council in Birmingham relents over youth service funding under this kind of pressure, this will only mean £1m being taken out of another budget, raising the economic and social pressure somewhere else. Something has to give.
See also: ‘Who stole our future?‘
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 8 December meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
Last November, substantial coordinated strike action behind the pensions issue took thousands onto the streets in Britain. Since that struggle was sold out by the TUC, and despite the subsequent unanimous passage at the TUC’s annual congress of a motion tentatively mooting the possibility of a general strike, the momentum has drained away, thanks to the continued left-social-democratic character of even the most militant sections of organised labour.
On the eve of this year’s 14 November ‘day of action’, faced with the looming failure of the British TUC to mount even token support, the National Shop Stewards’ Network (NSSN) couldn’t advance any higher goal than to ‘get back to’ the glorious heights of last year’s ‘N30’ action, yet again calling upon the TUC to ‘name the day’ for a (one-day!) ‘general strike’.
A recent rally in defence of the NHS in Bristol illustrated the problem clearly. Speaker after speaker repeated the same mantra: “Labour must stop implementing Tory cuts.” Whilst this approach came in ‘militant’ wrapping – “Don’t let the Labour councillors get away with it! Don’t give them any peace! etc” – the subtext that got reinforced was inescapable: stick with Labour, it’s the only show in town.
The Bristol march was well supported (and barely reported), and drew attention to the way that the NHS is being prepared for balkanisation, with clinical commissioning groups purchasing services from NHS trusts and private companies.
Particularly flagrant have been the efforts of the so-called South West Pay Cartel to introduce regional pay agreements, undermining the existing national banding of jobs and preparing the ground for cuts in pay and conditions.
It appears that the Cartel’s honesty has made even the government a little nervous, with health minister Dan Poulter describing the consortium as “somewhat heavy-handed” during a Commons debate. It’s clear enough that the Cartel’s flat feet are trampling in the same direction the rest of the NHS is destined to travel in due course.
However, rearguard defence of national banding alone is not enough to mobilise health workers in the struggle, any more than rearguard defence of Joint Industry Board arrangements is enough to mobilise electricians in the construction industry or rearguard defence of the Agricultural Wages Board (now threatened with the chop) is enough to mobilise agricultural workers.
What is needed across all sectors of employment is a class-wide struggle to break with the social-democratic politics of the Labour party and all its friends and overthrow the crisis-ridden capitalist system.
'Kiringul', which translates as 'Kirin's lair', is one of the sites associated with King Tongmyŏng, the founder of Koguryŏ, an ancient Korean kingdom.
Did anyone see the feeble little piss-take Ian Hislop and co did last week on Have I Got News For You about gullible north Koreans supposedly believing in unicorns?
The real story turns out to be that archaeologists from the DPRK have found some interesting evidence that an important ancient city that features in folk legends might have been situated close to the present day Pyongyang.
Legend has it that in ancient times a famous king founded the city. The ‘unicorn’ just comes into it as a mistranslation of a Korean word denoting a mythical beast on which the king was supposed to ride.
Turning this straightforward story about an archaeological dig into a slander about thick Koreans swallowing commie lies may pass for cutting edge satire at the BBC but will only fool the terminally credulous.
Are thick Brits now to be pilloried for believing in giants (who else would inhabit the Giants’ Causeway?), in dragons (what else did St George fight?), or in (most far-fetched yet) the honesty and objectivity of the BBC lie machine?
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 21 October meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
With more and deeper cuts every day chipping away at things to which everyone had long become accustomed (a fire engine turning up in reasonable time when you dial 999, a proper investigation when someone loses a finger in an industrial accident, an affordable train ticket even), people quite reasonably look to the unions to do their traditional job of standing up for the rights of ordinary workers.
Yet with unions less interested in organising strike funds than they are in donating to the Labour party, we can expect little more from the TUC than the odd day’s protest march.
The efforts of union militants in the NSSN and elsewhere to kick-start the do-nothing TUC into leading a coordinated strike campaign against the imposition of austerity in Britain continue to run into the same brick wall at congress after congress.
Each year one or other resolution in favour of this, suitably militant in presentation but hedged about with enough caveats to reassure the labour aristocracy, is passed unanimously and then left to gather dust on the shelf, with at best another chance to let off steam at another ‘day of action’.
This year proved no exception, with what the NSSN describe as a ‘bold resolution’ from the prison warders proposing “a coalition of resistance taking coordinated action where possible [!] with far-reaching campaigns including the consideration [!!] and practicalities [!!!] of a general strike”.
But the harsh truth is that, until the social-democratic politics of the union movement are taken on and faced down, the TUC will continue its history of treachery to the working class – a history unbroken since 1926.
Trying to cheer ourselves up by telling ourselves that “The passing of this motion is a great step forward in the battle that has been waged to push the leaders of the TUC towards mobilising the weight of the trade-union movement against the government’s cuts agenda” merely reinforces the reformist notion that piling more pressure on the labour aristocracy will eventually oblige them to lead the fight against capitalism, disarming workers ideologically.
And in the end, the key question is not whether the TUC refuses to call a general strike or calls one in order to betray it. The key question is rather: what is meant by ‘A future that works’?