Friday, March 21, 2008

Communist Appeal in Solidarity with the Palestinian People

Appeal by Communist And Workers' Parties In Solidarity With The Palestinian People of Gaza And The West Bank

The crimes that have been committed against the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank are a disgrace to humanity.
During the last few days, from the beginning of this aggressive war against Gaza, tens of martyrs and hundreds of wounded have fallen, most of them children and women. Israel is using internationally forbidden weapons in this war. It is also still seizing Palestinian land, building new settlements, sweeping away trees and plants, erecting the segregating wall and challenging legitimate international decisions. All this Israeli tyranny is approved and financially, militarily and morally supported by the American administration, support which is revealed by the sending of American warships to the Eastern Mediterranean Coast, along the Syrian and Lebanese shores.
Of course the aim of this American step is not maintaining regional security as it has claimed, but to interfere directly with the internal affairs of the countries of the region and to prepare an aggressive war aiming to impose its conditions by force on the Arab region through the security council.
We denounce the brutal and aggressive war, devastating for both man and infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank as well as the siege and blockade policy, and call the Palestinian groups to be united in the face of the aggression and to stop the river of blood. We also call the Arab governments to break their silence and give financial, moral and informational support to the Palestinian people.
We urge the popular movements, trade unions, solidarity and youth movements, political parties all over the world to denounce the daily massacres in Gaza and the West Bank, the starvation and death siege imposed on Gaza people who are prevented from obtaining medicines, food and fuel.
We demand the governments to urgently take supportive political and humane attitudes towards the Palestinian people, and to denounce the mobilization of the American warships, aiming to support Israel in its aggressive war against the Palestinian people and to threaten Syria and Lebanon.

March 2008

The Parties

1. Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia
2. PADS, Algeria
3. Democratic Progressive Tribune, Bahrain
4. Communist Party of Bangladesh
5. Workers’ Party of Belgium
6. Communist Party of Brazil
7. New Communist Party of Britain
8. Communist Party of Canada
9. Communist Party of Chile
10. Socialist Worker’s Party of Croatia
11. Communist Party in Denmark
12. Communist Party of Egypt
13. Communist Party of Estonia
14. Communist Party of Finland
15. German Communist Party
16. Communist Party of Greece
17. Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party
18. Communist Party of India
19. Communist Party of Ireland
20. Communist Party of Israel
21. Socialist Party of Latvia
22. Lebanese Communist Party
23. Socialist Party of Lithuania
24. Communist Party of Luxembourg
25. Communist Party of Malta
26. Party of the Communists, Mexico
27. New Communist Party of the Netherlands
28. Communist Party of Norway
29. Peruvian Communist Party
30. Phillipine Communist Party – 1930
31. Portuguese Communist Party
32. Socialist Alliance Party, Romania.
33. Communist Party of the Russian Federation
34. New Communist Party of Yugoslavia
35. South African Communist Party
36. Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain
37. Communist Party of Sweden
38. Syrian Communist Party
39. Communist Party of Turkey

No Trident! No nuclear holocaust!

by Ann Rogers

IN MARCH 2007 the Government put a resolution before the House of Commons calling for “the necessary steps to maintain the United Kingdom’s strategic nuclear deterrent beyond the life of the existing system”. In short the Government was calling for a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons.
The resolution was passes after pressure on both Tory and Labour MPs. But it was still opposed by 161 MPs – including 89 Labour MPs – the biggest revolt by Labour backbenchers on a domestic issue since Tony Blair came to office.
The rebel MPs were in step with the public as a whole. A majority (59 per cent), polled by ICM in July 2006, opposed replacing Trident.
In January 2008, as reported in the New Worker, armed forces chiefs from the United States, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands gave a statement insisting that a “first strike” nuclear option remains an “indispensable option” since there is “simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world”. It is thought this manifesto will be discussed at the Nato summit in April.
Of course armed forces chiefs are not necessarily speaking for their respective governments. But since governments have not spoken against these views we must conclude that this does reflect the thinking of the imperialist leaders.
It means that objecting to these policies needs to happen now – ahead of the Nato summit.
The armed forces chiefs’ statement also needs to be seen alongside arguments put by Tony Blair when he was striving to get the new Trident resolution through the Commons. According to Blair it would be “unwise and dangerous” for Britain to give up its nuclear weapons. He alleged that the consequences of misjudgement about the country’s security would be “potentially catastrophic”.
He alleged that new threats were posed by states like the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. This outrageous slur against the DPRK, a country that has issued no threats to anyone at all and which vigorously supports peace and working class solidarity internationally, shows the utter emptiness and weakness of the Government’s case. It also shows that the Cold War is not ended outside Europe – at least in the minds of the imperialist powers.
But Blair’s words will come as no surprise after backing Bush’s war on Iraq on the basis of a lie about weapons of mass destruction, which Iraq did not have.
The whole issue of Trident is presented by the biggest lie of all – that these weapons protect our country and that they are a means of “defence”.
We do not need to second guess the thinking of the ruling class here and in the United States – we only need to see the specification for Trident to know that it is, and always was, an offensive weapon of mass destruction. Much more exposure needs to be given to this since there is now a generation of young adults who were born after the Cold War in Europe and after the intense campaigning against Trident in the 1980s.
Briefly: The current trident fleet consists of four Ballistic submarines – HMS Vengeance, HMS Victorious, HMS Vigilant and HMS Vanguard. At any time three of these can be at sea. Each 150-metre submarine has 16 missile tubes capable of firing Trident D5 missiles and four tubes for Spearfish torpedoes. D5 is a MERV-type missile, which can fire 12 nuclear-armed warheads.
Each submarine’s range is over 4,000 nautical miles and, according to Royal navy information, claims an accuracy of a few metres. This is laughable, since a single warhead would totally devastate an area of many square miles – being accurate to a few yards is utterly irrelevant.
Just one trident warhead has eight times the explosive power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. A warhead aimed at a city would kill, sooner or later, over a million people, destroy the entire infrastructure and contaminate the whole area for decades to come.
The range of Trident means it could do this to any country in the world.
This is military nonsense – a fact acknowledged by many military pundits. If Trident were ever used it would amount to a crime of genocidal proportions – and it is obviously not inconceivable that it could be used, given the first-strike talk of the Nato war chiefs.
Does Trident defend our country? Of course not. It only increases the danger of nuclear catastrophe.
Only the US has a comparable system to Trident. Britain does not face a threat from others – we are the threat. In fact in July 1998 a Ministry of Defence review stated: “There is today no military threat to the United Kingdom or Western Europe. Nor do we foresee the re-emergence of such a threat.”
That statement did not deter former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon from indicating in 2002 that Trident might be used in a first strike capacity as a pre-emptive attack against a proportionate threat and that this could be against a non-nuclear weapon state.
A CND briefing of May 2007 said: “The UK is enhancing the Trident system and making it more flexible and therefore more usable. For example in 2003 new computers were installed on Trident submarines so that the missiles can now be rapidly retargeted and £28.4 million has been spent on acquiring a new fire-control system (to be deployed in 2010) which will improve their targeting. An upgrade to the nuclear warheads has also been scheduled. The Government describe this as a “relatively minor upgrading and refurbishment during the first half of the next decade. This will enable Trident warheads to remain in service until at least the 2020s.”
The Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office have produced a fact sheet giving a potted history of Britain’s nuclear weapons programme (incidentally, though this goes back to 1941 and the 1943 Manhattan Project, agreed between Churchill and Roosevelt, it never bothers to mention the US bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945).
However it does mention the signing in 1958 of the Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA) as the basis for Agreement and Co-operation on Uses of Atomic Energy for Mutual Defence Purposes. This, it says, “became, and remains, the cornerstone of UK-US co-operation on nuclear defence issues. It was renewed in 2004 for a further period of 10 years.”
It underlines the fact that the US Trident missile system that Britain deploys always has to be seen as a component of the wider US war strategy.
In the 1980s Trident was to have been an integrated part of the US Star Wars programme and today it remains an arm of US strategy. Trident is not an independent UK weapons system and it is inconceivable that Britain would ever use its Trident weapons if the US did not sanction it.
While British ministers always speak of trident as “our nuclear deterrent” – it is actually more closely tied to Washington than other weapons systems that Britain has. This is because the US will not let Trident be subjected to any collective decision-making by its allies.
It is not just the constraints of the MDA that make Trident not an independent weapons system. A report prepared for Scottish CND revealed that Trident is technically dependent on the US in many important ways. It says: “The [Trident] warhead is a Dutch copy of the US W76…. Several key components are produced in America…. The MC2989 Neutron Generators, initially deployed on British warheads were overhauled in the US in 1999. This implies that they were built there. A replacement Neutron Generator, the MC4380, was manufactured in America and supplied to Britain in 2002 …. The gas reservoirs on British warheads are filled with tritium in the US. These are difficult components to build. This suggests that the reservoirs are manufactured in America.
“The arming, fusing and firing system triggers the warhead. The model used on British warheads was designed by Sandia Laboratory and almost certainly procured off-the-shelf from America…. And there is a substantial American presence at the Northwood headquarters from where British submarine operations are controlled.
“Successive governments have withheld information to conceal dependence …. This is consistent with the policy of uncertainty that lies at the heart of British nuclear policy.”
Blair’s statement to the House of Commons that “it would be unwise and dangerous for Britain to give up its nuclear weapons” is utterly bogus. The vast majority of countries in the world do not have nuclear weapons at all. And since the end of the Cold war in Europe Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus have got rid of their nuclear weapons.
For Britain to opt for Trident replacement is not going to deter countries from trying to acquire nuclear weapons – it will have the opposite effect of making non-nuclear states feel threatened and therefore in need of seeking a nuclear option.Furthermore it is contrary to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that Britain has signed.
The NPT was signed by the US, Britain, the Soviet Union and 59 other countries on 1st July 1968. Since then China and France have also signed. By 2000, 187 states were party to the NPT.
Though Blair denied that Trident replacement is in breach of the NPT, the words of Article VI of the treaty show that he is wrong. It says: “Each of the parties to the treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to pursue nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
Britain and the US have never paid more than lip service to this and by upgrading their nuclear weapons they are clearly in breach. But that sort of thing has never worried either state. The imperialist powers never thought of the NPT as a call for nuclear weapons’ reduction by themselves – but only as a means of constraining all other states to create as near to a nuclear weapons monopoly as possible.
Since the counter-revolution in the Soviet Union this pressure has built up so that now states the US regards as unfriendly are bullied to abandon nuclear power generation altogether.
If the Government’s stated reasons for wanting to keep Trident are spurious, what are the true reasons?
One of these can be summed up by the words of Aneurin Bevan when he addressed the Labour Party Conference in 1957 and insisted that Britain retain nuclear weapons “lest she go naked into the conference chamber”.
Maintaining nuclear status has and is a ruling class objective for British capitalism’s international prestige and to keep its permanent seat on the Security Council of the United Nations.
It is also part of the wider strategy of Anglo-US relations. Britain is no longer a big colonial power but a section of the British ruling class hopes to bask in the reflection of the new sun in the sky –the US.
It is timely that this Easter CND plans to mark its 50th anniversary with a demonstration at the Atomic weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston. This is where a new laser facility is being built to test and develop a new generation of nuclear weapons.
This site produced and maintains nuclear warheads and has always been the business end of Trident in Britain.
The decision to replace Trident has led to an increase in the workforce at Aldermaston and capital costs have risen by £278 million in the last five years. According to a House of Commons written statement £1 billion extra funding has been earmarked for Aldermaston from 2005 to 2008.
This brings us to the cost of Trident. According to CND replacement for Trident could cost at least £25 billion. Running costs will be £1.5 billion-a-year and over a 30-year lifespan this would bring the cost to £76 billion. The Stop the War Coalition believes the cost will be £50 billion and a Defence white paper says the running costs of Trident are five to six per cent of the annual defence budget.
Of course the figures all depend on what is counted in. for example there would be extra costs for decommissioning the old system and the huge costs of running AWE Aldermaston.
Whatever measure we use it is colossally expensive and represents money that could be better spent on health, education, housing, pensions, public transport, local authorities and so on.
Clearly British taxpayers – the majority of whom are working class people on pay-as-you-earn tax (PAYE) – are helping to pay for US nuclear war plans and “defence” strategy. None of this is in the interests of the working class.
Quote: “Trident is unacceptably expensive, economically wasteful and militarily unsound.” – Gordon Brown (1984).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

No to the Lisbon Treaty!

EUROPEAN communist parties called for a mass campaign for a strong No vote against the “Lisbon Treaty” in Ireland and throughout the European Union at a conference in Athens last weekend. Twenty-three communist and workers’ parties, including the New Communist Party of Britain, took part in the conference called to develop joint and co-ordinated initiatives to mobilise the working class against the bourgeois drive to build the capitalist super-state in Europe.
There was broad unanimity amongst the communist representatives from 20 EU member-states and accession countries on the true nature of the European Union. They stressed that the development of the Common Market and the EU that followed was the choice of European 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.
The sovereignty and independence of peoples and countries are being further undermined. The attack on labour and trade union rights throughout the EU is escalating in the name of “modernisation”; “competitiveness” and “flexicurity”, and in order to ensure the profits of capital. The participants vehemently denounced the adoption of the Treaty without consulting the people.
The unilateral secession of Kosovo from Serbia was condemned and concern was expressed about its consequences.
Leading members of the revisionist and left social-democratic “European Party of the Left” bloc, like the French Communist Party and the Italian Communist Refoundation Party, did not take part in the conference though others including the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) fully participated in support of the communist initiative.
The guest of honour was the Cuban ambassador to Greece and two anti-European Marxist-Leninist movements, the Pole of Communist Renaissaince in France (PRCF) and the L’Ernesto magazine from Italy attended as observers.
NCP leader Andy Brooks and Theo Russell from the Central Committee represented the Party in Athens. In his speech Andy Brooks called for mass support for a No vote in Ireland, the only country that is putting the Lisbon Treaty to referendum. He said: “Communists must also use the opportunity of the public debate that will no doubt take place prior to the vote to make the principled stand against the European Union and the Treaty of Rome altogether…the European Union cannot be reformed except by tearing up the Treaty of Rome, which established the Common Market in the first place”.
photo: KKE General Secretary Aleka Papariga opening conference

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Soviet National Anthem

Friday, March 07, 2008

International Womens Day -- dedicated to the women of Palestine

World Federation of Trade Unions
Athens March 4, 2008

On March 8, 1857 the women workers in textile indurstries of New York were on strike demanding ten hours of work instead of sixteen. Their strike ended by bloodshed.

Today, in all capitalist countries, the working woman is the object of harsh exploitation. She works mainly in part-time, uninsured, and temporary jobs. She is being paid less than what men are paid. She has a smaller pension. She is the first to become unemployed. In many countries violence against women is on the rise, prostitution is spreading, economic migration is separating many mothers from their children and deprives them of the right to education, to cultural activity, to free time. All these are consequences of the so-called globalization, that is, of the renewed and expanded aggression of the monopolies and transnationals against the peoples.
According to the European Union statistical data (Eurostat), today 1.2 billion of the world's 2.9 billion workers are women (40%). Women are 60 % of the world's working poor people. More women than ever before are unemployed and they are mostly stuck in low productivity jobs such as agriculture, the field of services and the informal sector. The two-thirds of the 800 million illiterate people globally today are women. Among the children that do not attend school, 3 out of 5 are girls. The data also reveal that around one million people annually fall victim to sex trafficking, 900 thousand of whom are women and girls.
The conditions for women are extremely bad in all continents. In Africa, AIDS is spreading among the female population, in India around two thousand pregnancies are being prematurely terminated daily, because families wish to have only male offspring. Around ninety percent of the victims of the armed confrontations and wars are non-combatants, among them the large majority women and children.

The data and the numbers speak for themselves. They reveal the true picture of the so-called “female issue” which is a social phenomenon linked to the historical progression of human society and includes a multitude of economic, political and cultural discriminations against women in all spheres of social, family and personal life. These discriminations have mental, cultural and moral repercussions, since women are prevented from developing their abilities in full and from attaining full equality. These negative repercussions concern the women of the working class, of the poor peasantry and of the self-employed strata.

For the W.F.T.U. the solution and the way-out is found in the common struggles of women and men against the social system which gives birth to the exploitation of men by men. We have the duty to fight in political and trade union level for the small and bigger problems until the deliberation of the working class.

The attention and the interest of the W.F.T.U. for the issues of working women is interpreted in concrete actions such as the constitution of a permanent Working Committee composed of members representing different regions, development of trade union skills and training programs on gender equality at the workplaces, strengthening the capacity of class-oriented trade unions so as to include gender issues in their collective bargaining, to inform working women about their legitimate rights and help them assure those rights, including legal assistance when presenting claims on violations of the working women's rights and in the supervision of ILO Conventions, to promote the ratification and implementation of labor standards relevant to gender equality, particularly the No. 100 on equal remuneration, No.111 on non discrimination in employment and occupation, No.156 on workers with family responsibilities, No.183 on maternity protection, to promote the occupational, health and safety measures for the women workers, to struggle for increase of women's participation in trade unions, and also their elections as trade union leaders, to fight again sexual harassment or violence against women and other.
On the International Women’s Day 2008, the W.F.T.U. calls upon all women militants of the world to act jointly with men inside trade unions, to resist the capitalist globalisation, the imperialist wars and the destruction of the environment and to demand trade union and democratic freedoms.
The W.F.T.U. dedicates this year’s Women’s Day to the women of Palestine, to the mothers of Gaza, to the girls in Ramalha who are facing today new barbarian attacks from the Israeli army.

Let’s express all together our Internationalist solidarity to the women of Palestine and to their heroic struggles.
The Secretariat

40, Zan Moreas street, Athens 11745 GREECE
Tel. +302109214417, +302109236700, Fax +30210 9214517 E-mails:,

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Women's Equality: Forward not back!

by Daphne Liddle

PROGRESS is never smooth and even; we live in a dialectical world. But recently it seems the struggle for women’s equality has been going backwards and the evidence is all around us.
There were certain points of principle we fought to have enshrined in law to prevent discrimination against women at work, battles we thought were done and settled so we could move on to new issues.
The logical next battles were to get these laws actually implemented throughout the country. The general view was that big “respectable” employers – the public sector, major companies and so on, would all be aware of the laws and the battles would be with small-time rogue employers who were not up to scratch on employment laws.
This was always an illusion of course. But TV tycoon Alan Sugar shattered it a few weeks ago with his admission that he and many other bosses have binned job applications from women because anti-discrimination laws forbid employers asking women about whether they have or plan to have children.
The star of BBC2’s The Apprentice said pregnant women are “entitled to have too much” and called for a change in the law to allow employers to ask recruits if they are planning a child. He said: “These laws are counter-productive for women. You’re not allowed to ask so it’s easy – just don’t employ them.”
We had the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the course of remarks about Sharia law, implying that family law was a relatively trivial matter.
Then a “human resources” manager publicly claimed that women earn less than men because they prefer it that way; they’re just not so competitive.
Last week the Guardian reported that one third of mothers lose significant ground in their career paths simply as a result of being mothers. It’s not easy being competitive when you are carrying an extra burden of domestic and parental responsibility.
There are of course some men, in gradually increasing numbers, who do get more involved in domestic responsibilities but it is still the exception rather than the rule.
The result is that thousands of women still never get to fulfil their potential and have to make do with staying in the back seat of life while others decide what direction they will go in.
Of course working class men also have very little control over the course and direction of their working lives; working class women have the least control of all – either at work or in the home where they still do the lion’s share of the work.
According to the Office of National Statistics the gender pay gap fell to its lowest ever rate of 12.8 per cent between 2006 and 2007 comparing the median hourly rate paid to women with that for men.
This slight progress arises from some titanic equal pay battles won by public sector unions. But unfortunately some of these have resulted in major pay restructuring in NHS and local government pay that have seen the pay of some men reduced rather than women’s raised.
The median hourly rate for men went up 2.8 per cent to £11.96, while the rate for women increased by 3.1 per cent to £10.46.
But when we look at weekly earnings, according to the ONS, on the internationally comparable measure based on mean earnings, women’s average hourly pay (excluding overtime) was 17.2 per cent less than men’s pay, showing a decrease on the comparable figure of 17.5 per cent for 2006.
In 2007, median weekly earnings of full-time employees for women of £394 were 21 per cent less than those for men (£498), unchanged from 2006.
The major reason for the discrepancy is that women – because of their domestic responsibilities – are less able to work long or unsociable hours. Many with young children opt for part-time working and part time rates are always lower than full-time.
So women continue to pay a swingeing levy throughout their lives for deciding to become a parent while men do not.
But setting women and men against each other is playing the bosses’ game of divide and rule. The truth is that bosses like Alan Sugar want the world and everybody’s lives organised to make it as easy as possible for them to make as much profit as possible.
We are living in a bourgeois capitalist society that has a one-dimensional view of the human race, which is seen as existing only for the purpose of making money. All other human activity: family life, leisure, rest and relaxation are regarded as subordinate and dispensable in favour of that one purpose.
The bosses are so blinkered they do not see – or care – how one-dimensional and unbalanced our society is becoming. And though women workers suffer most from this discrimination, men workers also suffer.
Bosses take it absolutely for granted that male workers will invariable put their bosses’ needs before their family or any other interests. To modern capitalism families are a trivial hobby that workers must set aside when the boss requires it.
Yet the bourgeois media hypocritically blame parents and the failure of the “family” for all the ills of society.
Capitalism – in Britain, the United States, Australia, Canada and increasingly in Western Europe – does not need its indigenous working class to reproduce itself. In all these places industry is declining. What industry remains in the capitalist/imperialist heartlands is capital intensive – machines do most of the work. The biggest employers in these places are the finance, public and service sectors.
Imperialism deliberately blocks industrialisation in the poorest countries of Africa and Latin America – it wants to keep these places dependent on the imperialists for technology. Imperialism also dumps cheap subsidised food in these places, destroying local agricultural economies.
All this serves to put pressure on young African and Latin American workers to want to get out and emigrate to the imperialist heartlands in search of economic advancement.
Once again the capitalist media wail and moan about waves of economic migrants but they welcome the cheap and eager labour – already raised to adulthood and educated. The former socialist states of Eastern Europe are also now a rich source of high quality working class migrants. The bosses have no need for indigenous workers to take time and effort having children, raising them and educating them.
So we now have an anti-child culture, where women are warned in advance that having children will ruin their lives, exhaust them and cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to rear. Few women’s pages in the newspapers or magazines now mention any joys associated with parenthood. Maternity services are seriously reduced; childbirth becomes lonely, frightening and dangerous with not enough midwives, hospital beds or support. Childcare provision is patchy and expensive yet mothers are expected back at work as quickly as possible.
Those in a proper job with a trade union may get their full entitlement to maternity leave and be allowed to ask the boss for more flexible hours. But in the minimum wage service sector – women working in shops, restaurants, hotels and so on no such concessions are made. London buses carrying workers home are crammed from before dawn until midnight and beyond with exhausted men and women, mothers and fathers and there are always a few with pushchairs and fretful babies who’ve been picked up from official or unofficial baby-minders at God-knows-what hour. It’s a long way from the civilised seven o’clock bedtimes with mum or dad reading a story to soothe the little one to sleep of the middle class household.
Once the children are grown a little, the media portrays them all as potential monsters. Once schools were able to offer after-hours activities but pay and teacher cuts in the 1980s did away with most of that. The National Curriculum and constant testing and examinations keep children’s noses to the grindstone, leaving no time for hobbies or cultural pursuits and the social development that goes with that and brings adult confidence.
Our children grow up deprived of their cultural heritage because capitalism doesn’t want them wasting time on that sort of thing when they should be learning how to improve the bosses’ profits.
Children are regarded as a menace if they gather in groups to chat among themselves or play out of doors. Shopping malls now install devices that emit a high pitched whine – inaudible to adults – simply to drive children a way. This amounts to punishing children by the deliberate infliction of discomfort simply for the crime of being young.
They see little of their overworked parents and have little ordinary social interaction with adults. The adult world of profit-making has no time for them; they are a nuisance and should go away. No wonder so many children are seriously depressed. And when they are old enough, no wonder they are reluctant to become parents.
The root cause of this worsening situation is the increasing rate of exploitation of the whole working class. New gadgets and gizmos around the house, designer furniture, laminate flooring, computers, giant HD televisions, MP3 players and so may give the illusion that workers’ standards of living are improving. It is not so.
A century ago a worker – usually a man – could earn enough to keep himself, his wife and a large family of children housed, fed and clothed. Working hours were long but not as long as today. Now two partners working all the hours they can cannot earn enough to keep up with massive housing debts, not to mention credit card and other debts. Their homes may look like palaces but they have no time to enjoy them and many are convinced they cannot afford to have children.
Half a century ago people worked nine-to-five and thought that was onerous. They had tea breaks and lunch breaks that lasted at least an hour. When the clock struck five people were out of the door and did not give their work another thought until nine o’clock the next day. They had time for their families, to go out and about. Weekends were for gardening, pottering about, lazing or even trips to the seaside.
Ironically workers who are more rested and relaxed are far more productive and make fewer mistakes than those who are tired and always under pressure.
Nominally wages are higher but we’ve lost time to rest and relax. Debts keep our noses to the grindstone; holidays and outings are postponed until they are forgotten. Our working lives rush by and suddenly we find ourselves too old and tired to enjoy those leisure occasions we have deferred so often and so long. We have to surrender our most modest daydreams of easier days to come as pension cuts mean continued working into old age, followed by declining health and the prospect of totally inadequate support services. Mobile phones and emails mean the boss can be on our backs at any time of night or day. No wonder so many workers, men and women, are seriously depressed.
At least most of the readers of this paper have involvement in the fight back to sustain our morale but many workers now, especially the young, are totally alienated from political – or any other involvement because their work demands all their time, thought and energy.
Yet most of the products of all this frantic work are of little use to most people. Modern technology would allow us to produce enough of the basic necessities and quite a few luxuries to meet the requirements of every child, woman and man on this planet with much less work – and much less using up of the world’s resources. It is only capitalism’s frantic need for ever increasing profits that drives the madness machine.
The fight for equal pay for women and changes to employment patterns to suit the needs of people rather than profit will leave all workers and their children better off and more rested and relaxed. No political or economic system can guarantee individual happiness but we can remove some of the biggest sources of human misery.
We must demand that the state recognises that rearing a child is the job of more than one exhausted woman Рit requires the involvement of fathers, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, health visitors, doctors, child minders, cr̬ches, play leaders, youth clubs, park keepers, school crossings supervisors, neighbours, friends and many more.
Employment laws should allow all parents more time off to be with their children; no parents should be required to work unsocial hours in the evenings or at weekends and their pay should still be enough to keep them out of debt.
We must step back from the 24/7 society. Not many jobs really need to be done all the time – emergency services, caring for the sick and vulnerable, maintaining water and electricity supplies – apart from those most jobs could revert to reasonable closing times.
We must re-examine what is meant by flexible hours and recognise that this “benefit” has robbed us of proper tea and dinner breaks and the chance to chat that goes with that. “Flexi” must be to our benefit and not the bosses’.
Bosses must be told that whether they employ men or women they are just as likely to face demands for time off to attend to the needs of children and that women are not cheap labour.
Family law must be changed so that workers who are parents can decide to engage in or end partnerships according to their needs without economic penalties for themselves of their children. There must be no one trapped in a bad marriage because they fear impoverishment or homelessness.
And of course there must be vastly improved safe, high quality childcare facilities that really are affordable and allow both parents equal chances to pursue their careers.
These targets may seem a long way off under capitalism. But in striving for them we will be helping to make an impelling case for getting rid of capitalism and replacing it with socialism. And all socialist countries – even the ones that failed – have from the very beginning achieved huge advances towards these aims.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Free the Unions! Workers unity still the key

by Alex Kempshall

EVER SINCE society divided into classes the all-important question of remuneration for work done has loomed larger than any other in the political economy of human society. When capitalism became the prevailing mode of production its integral component, wage labour, made this aspect an even greater issue in the arena of inherent conflict between labour and capital.
The ruling class and all those who serve it have evolved more sophisticated methods to contain and reduce wages as a share of the proceeds ofproduction. In 1949 workers got 57 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).By 1975, through the strength of the trade unions, this had increased to 65 per cent of GDP dropping back to 52 per cent by the end of the Tory government in 1997. By 2006 the gross operating surpluses of corporations(profit) totalled £301 billion and compensation of employees was some £721billion or 55 per cent of GDP; so some of the profit has been clawed back from the ruling class but there is still a long way to go to reach the 65 per cent of GDP that was achieved in 1975.
The British labour movement, during the 30 years from 1945, succeeded in building a fairly comprehensive system of social services and monetary benefits. This represented a social wage and was a means of recovering for the working class part of the profits that employers of labour had extracted from workers at the point of production.
This only came about because of the collective strength of the working class, organised through the trade unions pushing successive Labour Governments to legislate is favour of the working class, by establishing a comprehensive tax systems to pay for the social wage. In this way part of profits made from exploiting workers was recovered from the ruling class. Even so it should be remembered that the substantial proportion of the social wage was funded by taxing the working class. The social wage, as with wages, is an ongoing bone of contention between the classes.
The capitalist class seeks to ensure that more and more of these profits are retained after taxation, either by Government strategy to pass the burden of taxation increasingly onto the working class, or simply by tax avoidance.
According to the Government’s National Audit Office analysis of tax raised it was found that almost a third of the Britain’s 700 biggest businesses paid no corporation tax at all in the 2005-06 financial year. Some even received tax credits – J Sainsbury, the supermarket group, instead of paying corporation tax received a credit of £3 million in 2005-06 and in the following year it received another £9 million tax credit. For those financial years it made profits of £352 million and £429 million and distributed to shareholders dividends of £136 million and £165 million.
When the Government takes steps to increase the taxation of private equity firms from its current 10 per cent, the ruling class complain bitterly about the abolishment of taper relief on capital gains tax (CGT) in favour of a single 18 per cent rate. When Labour came to power in 1997 this tax was a single 40 per cent rate; the following year Gordon Brown reduced it to an effective rate of 10 per cent. Only £2 billion is paid in CGT, so even after doubling it the amount of tax paid will still be less than half of the bonuses paid to city bankers in any one year. The Government should revert to the 1997 position of treating CGT as income tax at the present higher rate of 40 per cent.
Corporate profits and capital gains are not the only form of income that accrues to the ruling class and their side-kicks. An examination of the division of wealth and incomes shows that the top fifth of the populationowns by far the biggest ratio of wealth in Britain. Historically income has always been grossly unequally divided, now it is even more so.
Income Data Services, a research organisation, recently revealed that chief executives of FTSE 100 companies saw their average total remuneration (pay,bonus and long term incentives) increase to the end of June 2007 by 16 percent to £3.17 million, doubling over the last five years. Meanwhile those in the FTSE 350 rose by 20 per cent during the same 12 months. Also in a poll of pay experts “drawn from human resources managers and compensation and benefits specialists conducted in September 2007, Income data Services found that more than half thought that executive directors of listed companies were “overpaid”.
Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, commenting on this report said:“Britain’s top directors clearly have no shame. Year in, year out they have been paying themselves far bigger rises than they are prepared to pay their staff, while lecturing the rest of us on the need for low taxes. It beggars belief that they are somehow working twice as hard as five years ago. Confirming the unpopularity of fat cat salaries an opinion poll conducted during the summer of 2007 for the Financial Times found that almost 60 per cent of British citizens thought that the Government should cap the earnings of senior executives.The description “fat cats” also extends to bankers and traders in the City who took home £8.8 billion in bonuses in 2006 and a further £7.4 billion in 2007. This is anticipated to drop, on the basis of the current monetary crisis, to a paltry £6.2 billion in 2008. These bonuses pushed up the average earning index from 3.3 per cent to 5.4 per cent during the month of February 2007.So there’s plenty of money for those with their noses in the trough!

What about the workers?

A report published in October 2007, by uSwitch – the online gas and electricity price comparison organisation, based on figures produced by the Office for National Statistics figures, showed that disposable income in Britain is at its lowest level for a decade with net household income as a proportion of gross household income down five per cent compared with 1997,mainly due to utility bill and tax increases.
Despite this, consumer spending rose 3.0 per cent in the first three monthsof 2007 compared with the same quarter the previous year. It is therefore not surprising that consumer debt has reached a record level of £1,345 billion, almost double the gross annual wage of all employees in Britain.
In April 2007 median gross weekly earnings for full-time employee jobs on adult rates was £457, an increase of 2.9 per cent on the previous year, with25 per cent earning less than £326. In the private sector the median was £439, in the public sector the comparable figure was £498.
The median gross weekly earnings rate for all employee jobs was £362 per week.
However, if we look at average earnings, as the Labour Research Department(LRD) does, average earnings in April 2007 were £554, up about 3.5 per cent on the previous year. This disparity illustrates the difficulty in assessing what wage rates are and demonstrates the old adage that there are lies, damn lies and statistics. Average wages can easily be distorted by high paid workers. Incidentally the Government is introducing a new “experimental”method of calculating average wages that attempts to show that wages are actually rising at 4.5 per cent, which the Financial Times claims is “closer to the levels likely to trigger inflationary concerns”.
So according to National Statistics Online, wages are rising at either 2.9 per cent, 3.5 per cent or 4.5 per cent, which just goes to prove that an across the board flat-rate monetary increase of substance is the only way forward to unite the class in fighting for higher wages at the expense of the ruling class.
The following example illustrates the difference between the mean and median when analysing statistical information. Most people use mean and average interchangeably.
Suppose in a factory eight workers get paid £1 per week, one gets paid £2 and a further eight get paid £5. The total wage bill for the 17 workers in the factory is £50. If the total wage bill was divided equally among the workers the average wage would be £2.94. The median of the wages paid can be found by arranging all the wages paid from the lowest wage to highest and picking the middle one. In this factory it is the worker with the eighth highest wage which is £2 because, of the 17 workers, there are eight workers paid less than £2 and eight paid more than £2. By contrast, the average wageof £2.94 is not at all typical, since nobody in the factory is paid a wage approximating £2.94.
Looking at real wages the LRD, in its survey of wage agreements, reported that a worker on the Nissan assembly line could earn a maximum weekly wageof £489. At Airbus UK a skilled worker earns £400 per week. At ArrivaNorthWest an experienced bus driver earns £307 per week and at BAe SystemsSurface Fleet Solutions a skilled worker could earn £350 per week. To earn more than the average wage at Nissan a worker would have to be in a supervisory engineer role, in the other agreements none of the workers earn a wage approaching the average.
In a survey produced by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, reported bythe Financial Times on 5th November 2007, showed that more than one in five male and more than a quarter of female graduates in full-time work are still on less than £336 a week 3½ years after graduating – well below the full-time National Statistics Online average wage of £554. Interestingly this Financial Times article reported that the average wage was £423!
So whether it’s the Financial Times’ average wage of £423, ASHE’s median wage £447 or the £537 average wage publicised by the Government some, trade unions have negotiated seemingly significant percentage wage increases that have included a 7.9 per cent rise for 600 workers at Drax power station inYorkshire, a 5.35 per cent pay rise for 10,000 Network Rail workers, a 4.7 per cent increase for 60,000 BT staff, and a 4.5 per cent rise from April at BAE Systems Submarines – proving that the higher pay rises go to the best organised. But the 7.9 per cent awarded to workers at Drax power station based on the Financial Times’ average wage would still leave workers £80 per week short of the average wage, as publicised by the Government.
For wage settlements negotiated in July 2007, as reported by LRD, 25 per cent secured a wage increase of 4.58 per cent or more, 25 per cent secured awage increase of three per cent or less with a median of four per cent.
It should be emphasised that these figures are for organised workers. Those workers in areas where there is no strong union would expect pay rises substantially less than these negotiated rates. Even so the median of four per cent is barely above the increase in the cost of living and 25 per cent have suffered what is effectively a pay cut. Overall average earnings roseby 3.7 per cent driven mainly by bonuses in financial services, namely bankers.
Postal workers will have decided, by 27th November 2007, whether to accept a headline pay increase of 6.9 per cent over the next two years. Effectively what is actually on offer is a 3.8 per cent offer for the year ending March 2008. A further 1.5 per cent increase plus £400 for 2008/09 is on the table,to be made locally, when new flexibility arrangements have been implemented.
The agreement between the CWU and the Post Office states the flexibility arrangements as: “To cover for one another and develop sensible options toabsorb absences and increased workload, where time exists within normalhours”. The reward for this is to be implemented on a local level; again quoting from the document: “Local offices will be entitled to the 1.5 per cent pay increase from 7th April 2008, subject to deployment of these new arrangements. Any offices where deployment is deferred will receive the additional 1.5 per cent from the date of deployment”. In addition the pension scheme will be closed to new members and existing members will have their retirement age raised from 60 to 65.
As a reward and no doubt and in anticipation of the postal workers acceptinga pay cut, Royal Mail directors’ pay increased from £4.3 million to £7.3 million in the year to the end of March 2007, with chief executive Adam Crozier receiving a pay rise of £69,000, plus £140,000 in lieu of pension and £1.1 million paid into his incentive plan. A delivery postal worker is paid as at the end of March 2007 a maximum of £311 per week or £16,172 peryear.
With inflation increasing at 4.2 per cent per year, according to National Statistics in October 2007, even the median trade union negotiated pay settlement of four per cent is effectively a pay cut. Inflation is expected to increase for the foreseeable future, primarily though food and fuel inflation. World food prices have risen in the past year by 11 per cent and non-food inflation runs at a rate of about seven per cent, according to International Monetary Fund estimates.
Back in 1996 the International Labour Organisation criticised the rise in wage inequality particularly in the US, Britain and New Zealand, which it argued is partly due to the decline in trade union density and decentralisation of pay bargaining.
The mean total weekly paid hours of full-timers was 39.4 hours in April 2007 and the percentage of full-time employees working paid overtime in was 22.5 per cent. At our 2006 Congress we noted that some 4.76 million workersworked an average of 7.4 hours unpaid overtime every week, saving employers £23 billion a year. This is only part of the picture as an increasingly significant amount of time is spent travelling to work.
The TUC produced a report in October 2007 which revealed that the number of people travelling for more than an hour to get to work had risen by more than 22 per cent since 1996, with an average of 54 minutes to get to and from work each day. More than 1.3 million people working in London travel for more than two hours each day and half a million do so in the north-west.All this adds significantly to the stresses and strains of the working day.Is it little surprise that 1.09 million people are on incapacity benefitsuffering from “mental and behavioural” problems?

What of jobs?

At the end of August 2007:

The employment rate for people of working age was 74.4 per cent or 29.10 million – a rise of 82,000 over the year; in the previous 10 years employment was growing at 300,000 a year. So in the last year employment prospects have reduced significantly.
Of the economically active 400,000 were in temporary employment solely because they could not find permanent work and more were self-employed due to the loss of a salaried job.
There were 7.97 million people of working age who were economically inactive, 1.65 million were classified as unemployed, 835,000 were claiming unemployment benefit and a further two million who, although not actively seeking work, would do so if jobs were available.
There are also 200,000 16 and 17 year-olds looking for work. The Treasuryhas estimated that the number claiming unemployment benefit will rise to 930,000 over the next 12 months. Thus there are probably four million people looking for work, most are unlikely to find a job as there currently only 668,800 job vacancies.
These numbers of economically inactive are the highest since comparable records began in 1971.
In the later part of 2007 xenophobia has been lifted to be the number one tool to attack the unity of the working class.
This should come as no surprise when one considers that the British capitalism has failed to maintain economic growth compared with itscompetitors. To this end they have elevated statistics to “prove” that foreign-born workers are cutting “British” workers out of the jobs market. It has been claimed that the 1.5 million foreign workers, who arrived since1997 and have filled more than half of the new jobs created since 1997.
So what? If one is trying to persuade people that immigration is good or bad, one has to analyse its impact on the gross domestic product and its distribution, after subtracting the incomes earned by these foreign workers.The closest we get is a report, highlighted in a recent edition of the New Worker, produced by the Treasury, Home Office and Department of Work andPensions, which showed that on this basis they contributed £6 billion a year to the British economy. What isn’t discussed in the bourgeois media is:

• why has job creation collapsed by 220,000 jobs this year?
• why has inequality increased?
• why are workers working longer hours?
• why do workers have to commute ever greater distances to find a job?
• why are record profits being made at the expense of wages?
• why are the ruling class taking more and more from the economy to furnish their lavish lifestyles?
• why are workers having to spend future earnings (go into debt) justto maintain their standard of living?

The reason why the media isn’t posing these questions? It’s because the truth is too unpalatable – namely that capitalism isn’t working. When capitalism is in difficulties the capitalists have to find scapegoats and at the moment what better scapegoat than a foreign worker. Therefore we should support the TUC resolution adopted at the 2007 TUC Congress which stated:

“Congress recognises the benefits to the economy, public services and local communities of the presence of migrant workers but believes that more must be done to tackle exploitation and abuse by unscrupulous employers, to encourage recruitment of migrant workers to the trade union movement and to improve and enhance support services provided to migrant workers and theirfamilies.”

Manufacturing is the most important sector of the British economy as this is the main wealth-creating sector. Manufacturing currently generates around£147 billion of export revenue a year. The success of manufacturing within Britain is essential for future prosperity. Although it accounts for only a fifth of the economy it generates 60 per cent of all exports and 80 per cent of spending on research and development.
However, among the ruling class and their representatives in Government, the predominant school of thought is that it is the financial sector that is the key to Britain’s future. One would have thought that the events during the summer of 2007 should have dispelled any belief in that theory. To quote Ken Lewis, Bank of America’s chief executive officer: “I’ve had all the fun Ican stand in the investment banking business at the moment. You can’t have a business where you make money for five years, then give it all back in one year”. Well the financial sector doesn’t magic up money from thin air, all it does is move around the value added by workers to raw materials, in other words those workers who work in the extractive, agricultural, engineering and manufacturing industries.
So what is happening in manufacturing? In the last two years the haemorrhaging of jobs from the sector has continued at an alarming rate. In 1997 there were six million employed in manufacturing; by May 2004 employment had dropped to 3.3 million. Two years later in May 2006 that figure has dropped to three million.
But seen in context, the gross value added in manufacturing in 2005 was £148billion, almost 20 per cent higher than in 1979. So with a considerably reduced workforce and increased use of new technology it was still able to add significantly to the British economy. In relative terms it has grown more slowly than that of other developed economies – being out performed during the last 25 years by the US, Japan and Western Europe.
Britain’s manufacturing decline has been exaggerated, by as much as 20 per cent, by the outsourcing of functions such as accounting and delivery services. When these activities were an integral part of manufacturing they were defined as manufacturing activities and not costs. Once outsourced to service companies they are recorded as part of the service sector and are recorded in the profits of that sector and this has been used as a tool to divide the industrial working class.
It is no coincidence that the Tory attacks on trade unionism went hand-in-hand with the dismantling of the coal industry, manufacturing and agriculture. The only way to redress the balance and defend manufacturing is for a stronger trade union movement. No amount of legislation, hand-wringing or any Alternative Economic and Political Strategies is going to force the ruling class to reverse their direction.
The TUC, at its 2007 Congress, resolved to call upon the Government to:

“Establish a fair trading environment for British manufacturing byaddressing, in particular, the excessive costs of energy; inappropriatetrade and public procurement policies; and the failure to utilise available European Union resources to promote British manufacturing advance.”

No mention here of reversing the Tory anti-trade union laws, no mention of increasing wages – so that workers can buy back the goods that they produce.
Then in November 2007 in response to the Government’s proposals for apprenticeships the TUC issued a press statement : “The TUC welcomes measures to improve the number of apprenticeships on offer to young people starting out in the world of work and to older workers looking for a change of direction.
“If apprenticeships are to offer meaningful career opportunities, they must be of good quality, where apprentices are treated well and earn a decent wage. Legislative powers to regulate and promote apprenticeships give the opportunity to do just that, and it is important we get it right. The Government should ask the Low Pay Commission to review the current minimum wage exemptions that apply to apprentices.”
Contrary to this legalistic approach by the TUC, the key to the defence of manufacturing and apprenticeships is more trade union rights and higher wages. The struggle to raise wages would go some way towards strengthening trade unions and giving greater confidence to their members and encouraging young workers to join. It would place the unions in a more favourable vantage point to secure the restoration of free collective bargaining and tow in back other working conditions that have been lost over the last 30years.
A resurgent labour movement would have renewed power to offset the effects of imperialism and to bring pressure to bear on the ruling class to reverse the decline in manufacturing and wages.
The lifting of the morale and class consciousness through struggle would play a positive role in improving the stance of the Labour Party, making it more responsive to the needs of the working class.
It may be objected that such a strategy would be doomed to failure. The answer is that it is the struggle itself that is crucial and the activity it engenders. Through the struggle some immediate material benefit may accrue to the working class, and it might hinder the ruling class’s offensive against long-established conditions. More important, the objectives of the struggle will serve as a focus, a direction, for the class helping the cohesiveness of its activity. In this the question of fundamental change is bound to surface.
After all it was Lenin who said:

“However, strikes, which arise out of thevery nature of capitalist society, signify the beginning of the working class struggle against that system of society.
“But when the workers state their demands jointly and refuse to submit to the money-bags, they cease to be slaves, they become human beings; they begin to demand that their labour should not only serve to enrich a handful of idlers, but should also enable those who work to live like human beings.
“When the workers refuse to work, the entire machine threatens to stop.Every strike reminds the capitalists that it is the workers and not they who are the real masters – the workers who are more and more loudly proclaimingtheir rights. Every strike reminds the workers that their position is not hopeless, that they are not alone.”

As part of the struggle to defend the class we should give full support toand demand that the TUC lives up to its decisions to:

• give full support to unions taking action to defend jobs andservices and to win fair pay;• ensure that no Remploy factory is closed;
• oppose the two per cent pay target for public sector workers byco-ordinating opposition at national and local levels, including co-ordinated joint industrial action;
• organise a national demonstration against any furtherprivatisations;
• defend the welfare state;
• fast-track action on equal pay.

If the TUC can be pushed to take up these demands in a forceful way, the confidence to take on bigger tasks will be immeasurably strengthened. In doing so we must demand that the TUC does not take the “honest broker”approach as it has done in other recent struggles. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber chaired the recent talks between the CWU and Royal Mail; instead he should have been on the picket line.
Trade unionists, Labour Party activists and Communists must act to reverse the direction taken by Brown and Blair in their desperation to run capitalism.
Trade Unions and the TUC exist to defend workers. They are not revolutionary organisations to bring about the overthrow of capitalism. But neither do they exist to hand workers over to capitalism on a plate.
Trade unions should coordinate bargaining by launching simultaneous and substantial increases in pay. Other demands should include the 35-hour week, full employment, health and safety, training, the protection of core skills and safeguards for labour mobility, flexibility and productivity.
Prior to 1997 most trade union conferences agreed not to support “wage restraint or an incomes policy under the next Labour government” and to“oppose any attempt to undermine free collective bargaining.” A united struggle, in which the TUC coordinates the movement to win wide support for each struggle and on a number of these fronts will inevitably lead to confrontation with the law. On this basis the law can be challenged by a movement united around these common set of goals – pay, hours and jobs.