The Iron Lady rusts away

Posted: April 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

MARGARET Thatcher’s death this week has been marked by the usual platitudes that bourgeois politicians reserve for those who have well served the British ruling class. Tory leaders, together with all the other mainstream parliamentary parties, have swamped the media with their crocodile tears at the death of the first woman prime minister in British history who passed away in London’s Ritz Hotel at the ripe old age of 87.

You could easily be mistaken into thinking that a saint had died if you just read the gushing of the Tory press and the preparations for her ceremonial send off at St Paul’s cathedral next week, which is expected to cost over £8 million. But others have shown their contempt and derision in a barrage of hostile comments in the social media, while workers whose lives were blighted during the Thatcher era held impromptu street parties and demonstrations to celebrate the passing of one of the most hated British politicians to have led the country since the Second World War.

Maverick Tory MP Enoch Powell famously said: “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs”. It was certainly true of Powell himself, who played the race card in his own failed bid for power. It’s equally true of Thatcher, Major and Blair as well as every British prime minister we’ve had over the past 100 years or so.

Mrs Thatcher led the country from 1979 to 1990 and won three elections in a row. She spearheaded the bourgeois offensive against the unions, the National Health Service and the welfare state.

Margaret Thatcher posed as an equal partner of American imperialism around the world and claimed to be a Eurosceptic. Neither was true. The “special relationship” with US imperialism was an illusion and her government eventually signed up to virtually every demand of Franco-German imperialism, including the destruction of the mining industry and much of British manufacturing, to remain in what is now the European Union.

Her paltry victory over the Argentineans in the Falklands/ Malvinas war was hailed in the bourgeois media as a great feat of arms. But her acolytes say nothing about the resistance of the IRA or the Thatcher government’s brutal and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to crush the Irish national liberation movement in the occupied north of Ireland. Finally when Thatcher’s popularity slipped over the hated poll tax, she was no longer of any further use to the ruling class and she ignominiously dumped by her own Conservative Party.

Thatcher may well be an icon to the ruling class. But so are all the others, Labour and Tory, who followed in her footsteps when they went to Downing Street. The great reforms of the post-war Labour Government were indeed partly due to the overwhelming demand from working people for a better life.

But they were also the product of a bourgeois consensus on the need to boost production by pumping state money into ailing industries, while buying off and diverting working people down the dead-end of social democratic reform to head off the communist movement that had massively grown throughout Europe during the struggle to defeat the Nazis. This tactic was followed by the bourgeoisie throughout Western Europe during the Cold War.

By the 1970s the bourgeoisie as a whole, in Britain and in Europe, were no longer prepared to pay their share in maintaining the “welfare state” and that consensus ended. Thatcher simply represented the class the Tories serve and she did nothing that would not have been done by any other Tory leader at the time.

In her dotage Thatcher said that she would probably only be remembered for the construction of the Channel Tunnel. In fact the late Tory leader will be recalled simply as the politician who led the ruling class offensive against the unions and working people in the 1980s that continues to this day.

http://www.newworker.org/archive2013/nw20130412/the_iron_lady_rusts_away.html

by Neil Harris

South Korean military provocations directed at the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are a regular event and usually increase during the annual spring military manoeuvres, conducted jointly with the United States. This year has been different, both in the ferocity of the southern rhetoric and the way in which it has been backed up by American nuclear threats.

On the 18th March, Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters that on 8th March B-52 bombers from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam had flown to south Korea to simulate a nuclear attack on the DPRK during war games known as Exercise Foal Eagle.

In a co-ordinated statement the same day, US Deputy Defence secretary Ashton Carter confirmed during his visit to south Korea observing the military exercises, that the B-52 flights are part of the US Pacific Command programme called “Continuous Bomber Presence”. Little said: “We will continue to fly these training missions as part of our ongoing actions to enhance our strategic posture in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Confirming the B52’s nuclear role he continued: “The Foal Eagle manoeuvres will highlight both the nuclear and conventional capabilities of the B-52s.” He then stated that further flights would happen the next day.

He didn’t have that much choice, as earlier in the month two Russian military aircraft identified as TU-95 “bears”, were seen circling Guam, no doubt observing preparations for the nuclear element of the exercises which began in early March as part of the “Key Resolve” manoeuvres. A second round of exercises known as Foal Eagle will continue until the end of April.

Carter then confirmed that despite “The Pivot”, the Obama administration’s shift of military priorities away from the Middle East and towards confronting China and Russia in the Pacific Rim, their occupation of the southern “Republic of Korea” (ROK) would continue: “The Asia-Pacific rebalance is a priority. It’s a historic priority. We have the resources to accomplish it and no matter what happens in the budget debates that go on in the United States, our commitment to the Asia-Pacific rebalance and our commitment to the United States-ROK Alliance will remain firm.”

The American posturing was further ramped up by the south Korean newspaper, JoongAng Ilbo on the 13th March when it quoted an unnamed “senior government official”: “we need to have a nuclear weapon near the Korean Peninsula”. The official continued; “Among various options — our own development, adoption of tactical nuclear weapons and utilising the US nuclear umbrella — the third is the most realistic.”

The official didn’t specify where the nuclear weapons were and gave the false impression that the US puppets in the south had some control over the matter: “By not withdrawing US weapons participating in the Korea-US military exercises, we decided to let them stay a while and see what happens in North Korea,” he said. It looks likely that an American submarine armed with nuclear warheads will now be stationed nearby: “We decided to convene another Korea-US submarine drill after the Foal Eagle training ends at the end of April,” the official stated. “We are still negotiating, how to utilize the nuclear weapons after then.”

The negotiations are going to be one-sided; America’s new anti-Chinese military priorities mean that troops and bases are on the move. This has meant that US bases in the south are being consolidated and moved away from the front line, the south is being forced to pay more for its occupation.

Up till now, American tactical battlefield nuclear weapons have been stationed in the south but strategic weapons, intended for cities and civilians were not. America is cynically using the threat of a nuclear attack on the north as a way of appeasing the south while it changes its strategic priorities towards a confrontation with China. For China and Russia, the mobilisation of strategic nuclear weapons in the Pacific is a new and worrying threat.

http://www.newworker.org/archive2013/nw20130412/us_imperialism_and_the_facts_behind_the_korean_crisis.html

by Daphne Liddle

THE DEATH of Margaret Thatcher, announced last Monday, has highlighted the deep and growing class division in Britain. The working class has rejoiced while the ruling class and all its toadies have mourned.

Celebrations began immediately in the former mining communities, the former steel towns, in Brixton in south London and in hundreds of other working class communities. Meanwhile the ruling class-owned media have been filled with unending sycophantic drivel and praise for the woman who claimed she wanted to restore “Victorian values” to Britain but instead restored Victorian levels of poverty, greed, hypocrisy, homelessness, hunger and indifference to suffering.

Those of us who are rejoicing are fully aware that although the woman has gone the effects of her government are still with us. The battle against the neo-liberal/monetarist economic policies — the austerity cuts of the current Con-Dem government — goes on.

But the death of Thatcher does raise the morale of those who have been fighting her policies since the 1970s, when she started by taking away free milk for schoolchildren.

Today thousands of children would get real benefit from this small endowment as rising numbers of children are being sent to school hungry because their parents cannot afford to feed them properly.

The faults in wrong policies are shown up more and more as they are taken to their logical end — and the free market- worshipping policies of Thatcher have led us to a state where child poverty is many times what it was in the 1970s, along with homelessness and unemployment.

yawning chasm

The gap between the living standards of the working class and the ruling class has become a yawning chasm — presaging a coming earthquake.

The real value of wages and pensions has fallen dramatically while rents, food and travel costs have soared. Now even people with fulltime jobs cannot expect to be able to support their families on their wages — they need tax-payer top-ups just to reach subsistence level.

The Thatcher government encouraged working class people to buy their own council homes and claimed this would turn the country into a nation of home-owners.

A high proportion of those homes are now owned by private profiteering landlords while the working classes do not stand a hope in hell of ever being able to buy a home and we have a massive housing crisis.

Even those who did buy were mostly forced to sell their homes on as they grew older and the money was needed to pay for care that used to be provided free.

London is now full of luxury apartments that stand empty — owned by foreign millionaires who buy them as an investment and to have an address in London so they can benefit from its tax-haven status.

The celebrations are an opportunity for our generation to tell younger people who have grown up in a country shaped by Thatcher policies that things were not always like this. Once we had proper trade union rights — like most other countries in the world.

Once the welfare state and the NHS were recognised and treasured and funded by Labour and Tory governments.

Once, if you lost your job you could get another within a day. Once there were no police spy cameras on every street corner.

We cannot go back to the 70s, we must go forward to create a society organised by the working class for the working class. But to do this we must challenge the current regime and its anti-working class laws.

The major unions, led by Unite, PCS and Unison, are, after a pause since last autumn, considering a general strike. Unite and Unison have endorsed plans for a 24-hour general strike, involving both the public and private sector. They are reported to be planning to discuss the details at a meeting of the TUC general council later this month.

“It would be a landmark in our movement’s recovery of its morale, strength and capacity to play a leading part in a society crying out for credible and honourable leadership,” said the discussion document.

It also calls for a voluntary levy among the 6.5 million members of TUC-affiliated unions to pay the wages of “selected and identified” groups of striking workers.” We must work to support this call but also to demand and prepare for more sustained industrial action that will have a real impact on the ruling class.

Thatcher is gone; rejoice and then intensify the struggle to rid this country of her legacy.

http://www.newworker.org/archive2013/nw20130412/thatchers_gone_the_fight_goes_on.html

No to the EU

Posted: February 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

DAVID CAMERON the people must “have their say” on Europe and he’s pledged to call an in/out referendum on the European Union if the Conservatives win the next election in two years’ time. That, of course, is a very big if and it’s clear that Cameron’s motive is simply to rein in his Eurosceptic back-benchers and head off the surge of support for the maverick Tories in UKIP in 2015.

If anything the Prime Minister’s remarks at the Davos Conference of the world’s top exploiters last week has only inflamed the back-stabbers inside and outside his party who see it as a meaningless gesture which will never be fulfilled while Cameron is still in office. UKIP has been mocking him mercilessly while the Eurosceptics are openly talking about running a “stalking horse” challenge to the Tory leader this year.

One way or another, workers will have no say in what happens in the corridors of power.

But we do have a say in the unions and there the fight to challenge the Europhile leaders of the TUC and the big unions has to start.

Frances O’Grady, the new head of the TUC, claims that a British withdrawal would undermine all workers’ rights across the 27-member European Union. She talks about a “social Europe” and thinks the paid holidays, health and safety, equal treatment for part-time workers and women, protection when a business is sold off, and a voice at work are some sort of gift from the gods of European Parliament and the European Commission.

On the contrary, the development of the Common Market, and the EU that followed, was the choice of Franco-German imperialism and western European monopoly capital. It promotes neo-liberal measures favouring the monopolies and the concentration and accumulation of capital. It cannot represent a genuine counterweight to the United States in favour of the people. With the Lisbon Treaty, new steps are being taken towards the configuration of the EU as an imperialist, economic, political and military bloc, contrary to the interests of the workers and the people.

And those determined to further undermine workers’ rights are, in fact, the ruling circles that control the EU. The austerity packages and the attack on workers’ rights are escalating in order to ensure the profits of capital struggling in the grip of the worst slump since 1929.

For years Labour and the majority of the leaders of our unions have elevated the EU as an instrument for social progress and economic advance. They say that the EU is becoming more representative through the authority of the European Parliament and establishment of regional autonomy.

The social-democrats claim that the anti-working class “directives” and “rulings” can be reversed. The revisionist and left social-democratic parties that still pose as communists in some parts of Europe argue that the EU can be reformed to serve the interests of working people.

But the EU with its toothless parliament, ruritanian regional governments and farcical referendums that only count when the vote agrees with what has already been decided by the powers that be, hasn’t been reformed. Nor can it ever be under the Treaty of Rome.

Now people see the European Union for what it is — an institution designed solely for the benefit of the oppressors and exploiters — and millions upon millions are seeing through the lies of the bourgeoisie. What few benefits the EU has brought, such as increased trade and open borders, could all have been achieved through separate agreements and treaties.

The European Union is neither genuinely federal nor democratic and every stage of European integration has been financed by working people through higher indirect taxes, lost jobs and lost benefits.

The European Union cannot be reformed. It must be dissolved.

http://www.newworker.org/archive2013/nw20130201/no_to_the_eu.html

by New Worker correspondent

THERE were hundreds of children in buggies, many with placards proclaiming they were born at Lewisham maternity unit. There were thousands of pensioners — some had lived in Lewisham all their lives, others were from the West Indies, Ireland, Africa and all parts of Asia — united together they were a truly formidable force, as they marched through the shopping centre and past the hospital.

There were Catholics, Anglicans, Muslims, Hindus, pagans and atheists — all united.

And there were football fans. Millwall FC rescheduled an FA Cup fourth round game so fans could go on the march and the Milwall bus came along with their lion mascot. There were also Charlton and Crystal Palace fans, who carried placards saluting Millwall for its support for the campaign.

The Save Lewisham Hospital campaign had made thousands of placards with a blank space at the top for supporters to fill in who they were, saying “save Lewisham Hospital”. So we knew we were marching alongside: “Sydenham Society”, “Frying Squad SE13”, “Pepys Resource Centre”, Speedicabs SE4”, “Suits-U Bespoke Dry Cleaners”, “Rise and Shine after school club”, “Lewisham and Southwark College”, “The Surgery, Belmont Hill” — and so on, thousands of them.

There were several placards declaring their carrier owed his /her life or their child’s life to Lewisham A&E.

Speakers in Mountsfield Park at the end of the march included local Labour MPs Heidi Alexander and Joan Ruddock, Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union, Dr Louise Irvine, a local GP, who chairs the Save Lewisham Hospital. Surprisingly Nick Ferrari — the right-wing radio DJ was also a speaker.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will decide this week on whether to implement the proposals of Matthew Kershaw, the special administrator brought in to resolve the problems of the neighbouring South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT), which has been bankrupted by PFI deals, to close Lewisham A&E and maternity and transfer resources to SLHT.

This would leave 750,000 people in south east London with just one A&E unit — at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Woolwich Common, which is already struggling to cope with an overload of patients.

Dr Louise Irvine said: “This decision is crazy and ill-thought-out. It is a big mistake and carries huge clinical risks of things going wrong for patients but also political risk.

“If Jeremy Hunt can close a good local hospital here, he can do it anywhere in the country — nowhere is safe.

“This is very much a national issue; there are 60 hospital trusts across the country under threat of bankruptcy, many of them very good hospitals.

“We are saying ‘look at Lewisham, if we can win then you can win’. And even if we lose, we will keep on fighting, that is the most important thing.”

Aneurin Bevan said the NHS would last as long as people are ready to fight for it. It would seem the people are ready and are fighting — more people than jaded old lefties could imagine.

And it seems that other NHS defence campaigns around the country are being encouraged by what is going on in Lewisham. Jeremy Hunt cannot pretend he has not heard this protest, or that the whole people of Lewisham reject Kershaw’s plan emphatically. The Con Dem Coalition ignores a growing NHS defence movement like this at its peril.

http://www.newworker.org/archive2013/nw20130201/march_to_save_lewisham_hospital.html

Keep Britain out of Mali

Posted: February 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

by our African Affairs correspondent

BRITISH troops are going into Mali to back the French sweep to drive Islamic rebels out of the north of the country. French warplanes have been pounding rebel targets to pave the way for the advance of French and Malian government troops into northern Mali. And Touareq nationalist militias have now turned their guns on the Islamist rebels, saying they are willing to work with the French, but not the Malian army, in the push against al Qaeda fanatics.

The Cameron government claims that British troops would not be participating directly in combat, but would only provide armed “force protection”. But Downing Street did state that Britain has both the “capability and capacity” for a larger deployment.

The rebels have been driven out of Timbuktu and other key towns, and the French President says they are now “winning this battle” to restore the authority of the Malian regime and its imperialist masters.

Timbuktu’s main library, containing more than 20,000 manuscripts covering centuries of Mali’s history, is ablaze — torched, the French say, by fleeing Islamist rebels who were using the building as a barracks. And French and Malian forces are patrolling the streets of the city to prevent a repetition of the wholesale looting that followed the rebel retreat.

Some 400,000 Malians have fled the country since the civil war began last year. And human rights groups have voiced concern over the French information blackout on the number of civilian casualties and reports of indiscriminate bombing and atrocities by the Malian troops and their French advisors.

The French-imposed media black-out on the campaign means nobody knows the extent of the death and destruction that has followed the wake of “Operation Serval” and the Malian regime has not issued any figures about casualties either.

Though the French claim that there have been no civilian casualties, thanks to the precision of their airstrikes, the mayor of the Malian town of Konna recently declared that 11 civilians, including women and children, were killed as a result of French air-raids.

Marie-Pierre Allie from Doctors Without Borders says some wounded civilians have been hospitalised so far, but the number of injured could be more than what has been observed.

Meanwhile people in the northern part of Mali are concerned over the imminent threats against the lives. Malian government troops have been accused of summarily executing dozens of people, some only because of their ethnicity or for lacking identity papers.

Back in London there is equal concern at increasing British military involvement in the Malian conflict. The Cameron government says 350 troops will be sent to Mali to support the French operation as part of a British mission to train Malian forces and engage in “force protection”.

This week British representatives attended a meeting in Brussels to discuss the provision of troops as part of a European Union mission to the African country. The EU estimates that 500 supplementary troops will be sent to Mali, some 350 of whom will be British. This will include approximately 40 military advisers who will train soldiers in Mali and 200 British soldiers to be sent to neighbouring African countries.

But this could be the thin end of the wedge. Campaigning Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn told the media: “Two weeks ago we started by offering transport planes to France; we then sent force protection to back up the transport planes, we sent trainers, we have additional force protection to protect them,” .

Corbyn, a pillar of the Labour Representation Committee, compared the new conflict in Mali to the “French reaction of Afghanistan in 2001.”

That war, which started in a “hunky-dory” manner, later developed “into a greater war which is now going on for 11 years”

Show the way in 2013!

Posted: December 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

TIS the season to be jolly, or so we are told. But few will actually be decking the hall with holly these days. Most of us will be making the most of the festive season as best we can in these austere times. Parties, family get togethers, gifts and shows are all part of the escapism of the festive season. But the problems of our class — unemployment, poor housing and education, third rate medical treatment, back-breaking work and poverty line pensions won’t go away on New Year’s Day.

For millions of workers Christmas is a welcome break and a chance to put aside their cares for a few days and taste the good life the rich enjoy every day of the year. The bourgeoisie don’t have to worry about where the next meal is coming from or whether they’ll still have a roof over their heads in the days to come. That tiny minority of landowners, industrialists, speculators and parasites who make up the ruling class live like Roman emperors by living off the backs of working people. Every day is Christmas Day for the rich.

The bourgeoisie rejoiced when the traitors in the Kremlin destroyed the Soviet Union in 1990 taking the European people’s democracies down with them as they fell on their knees to grovel to the leaders of imperialism. They talked about a “new world order”. Their academic lackeys told us that the exploiters had won the Cold War and that history was dead. Their media gurus said we were all “middle class” and their politicians claimed that the era of boom and slump was over for good. Now they’re having second thoughts.

A wind of change has swept through Latin America leading to the election of progressive governments throughout most of the continent. The people of Cuba and Venezuela have closed ranks around their leaderships to defend their revolutions. Imperialist plans for the permanent occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan have been foiled by the resistance. China and the other people’s democracies in Asia are continuing to chart their own path towards socialism and Democratic Korean scientists have mastered the secrets of the atom to guarantee the DPRK’s defence and energy needs while their rockets reach for the stars.

Meanwhile the imperialist world sinks in a slump that began with the collapse of the housing bubble in the United States in 2007 that led to the imposition of draconian austerity programmes throughout the western world.

Working people now pay the bill for the capitalist crisis. The rich carry on unscathed. That’s no surprise. Their governments in America, Britain and the rest of the European Union exist solely to guarantee the continued existence of the ruling class and the system of exploitation that enables them to live their lives of luxury, ease and pleasure. But these days the bourgeoisie are beginning to look over their shoulder in apprehension at what the future will bring. They briefly lost control of the streets during the riots that rocked Britain last year while the public sector strike in November 2011, the biggest stoppage since the General Strike, demonstrated the potential power of organised labour in Britain.

Working class resistance is growing throughout the capitalist world. American workers are defending their right to organise while the mass movement that began in Greece has now spread throughout the European Union.

We know that the only way out of the crisis is socialism. All the bourgeoisie have to offer is the same old lies and the very real threat of open dictatorship. We can point to the experience of the Soviet Union in the past and the better life enjoyed by millions upon millions in the people’s democracies that exist around the world today. The bourgeoisie can only attempt to defend an oppressive and degenerate society racked by drugs, organised crime and an overall decadence that leads inevitably to events like the Newtown massacre that took place in the United States this week.

Workers want change but many don’t believe it’s attainable. We have to show it can be done by taking the communist alternative to the class again and building support for the cause of peace and socialism. Let’s do that in 2013!

http://www.newworker.org/archive2012/nw20121221/show_the_way_in_2013.html