Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Joint Appeal on the new Irish referendum

  • Joint Appeal of the Communist and Workers’ Parties in Europe on the new Irish Referendum

    Solidarity with the Irish NO Vote

    The rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by the Irish people in the referendum that was held last year, as well as the previous rejection of EU Treaties and the EU Constitution by other peoples in several EU member-states, has created great difficulties for the governments and a series of political forces that serve monopolies as well as the EU, this interstate imperialist union that has the interests of great capital as its driving force.

    For that reason, refusing to accept the result of the vote of the people, Brussels, with the support of the bourgeois political parties in Ireland, are obliging the Irish people to vote again, hoping that they can be frightened and bullied into changing their decision.

    The Lisbon Treaty, like the Maastricht and Nice treaties before it, consolidates and reinforces the EU imperialist strategy in favour of the interests of monopoly capital.

    This treaty in particular:
  • Reinforces the militaristic character of the EU, enhances the powers of the High Representative for Foreign Policy, and establishes a closer collaboration with NATO and the US.
  • Limits the sovereign rights of member-states and recognizes the supremacy of EU law over national law.
  • Elaborates new policies for the exploitation of workers and the demolition of labour and social rights, following on from the judgements of the Court of Justice of the European Communities in the Vaxholm, Laval, Ruffert and Luxemburg cases based as they were provisions on previous treaty.
  • Abolishes the veto in 50 sectors for the benefit of the powerful countries in the EU, also increasing the relative voting strength of the bigger states.
  • Decisively reinforces police and repressive powers at central level and in each member-state separately, in the direction for the creation of a single European policy of internal order and security.
  • Strongly restricts and hits individual and people’s political rights and liberties and includes the combat against “radical” ideologies to the existing “anti-terror” package of the EU.
  • Reinforces the rapacious and threatening international role of the EU in its dealings with developing countries, dictating terms of trade and economic policy, and opening up their resources to exploitation by European multinational corporations.
  • Further undermines the ability of member states to take sovereign independent action on key social, economic and political issues and, hence, any reference of the traditional “Irish policy of neutrality” would be devoid of any practical significance.

    The worker’s and people’s forces are now more aware of the fact that the EU has nothing to do with the interests of the peoples. It is a union of unemployment and underemployment, of the abolition of labour and social insurance rights, of the wage and pensions freezes, of the commercialisation of health, social welfare, education and culture. The peoples of Europe have accumulated experience since it has been proved in practice that the EU and its treaties not only constitute any shield against capitalist crisis, but on the contrary, they reinforce the profits of the capital that causes the crisis.

    The communist and workers parties of Europe express our solidarity with the Irish people and we urge them once more, to decisively oppose the anti-democratic and anti labour class direction inherent in the EU, to reject EU militarism and the threat to peace and people’s rights it represents. We urge them to defy the EU ultimatums; not to believe the promises for regulations, improvements and “protocols on the respect of rights beyond the treaty” that do not change the reactionary character of the treaty.

    We call upon workers across the member states of the EU:
  • To show their active solidarity with the Irish people.
  • To support them through messages of solidarity and any other form, as this is a common struggle and its result will have an impact upon workers across the EU.

    Europe of multinationals has rallied behind the forces of the “yes” vote; we, the communist and workers parties call upon workers to rally and stand in solidarity with the Irish working class and the other popular forces of the country.

    We call upon the Irish people to hold their nerve and vote “NO” once more and give the decisive blow that will signal the rejection of the reactionary treaty. This result will pose new obstacles to the attack of EU imperialists and will give a new impetus to the struggles of the working class and the poor popular strata throughout Europe.


    The Parties

    Communist Party of Belarus
    Workers’ Party of Belgium
    Communist Workers’ Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina
    Communist Party of Britain
    New Communist Party of Britain
    Socialist Workers’ Party of Croatia
    Communist Party in Denmark
    Communist Party of Denmark
    Communist Party of Estonia
    Communist Party of Finland
    Communist Party of Greece
    Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party
    Communist Party Ireland
    Workers’ Party of Ireland
    Socialist Party of Latvia
    Communist Party of Luxembourg
    New Communist Party of the Netherlands
    Communist Party of Norway
    Communist Party of Poland
    Portuguese Communist Party
    Communist Party of the Russian Federation
    Russian Communist Workers' Party – Revolutionary Party of Communists
    Communist Party of Slovakia
    Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain
    Communist Party of Sweden
    Communist Party of Turkey

Friday, September 11, 2009

The big squeeze


By Andy Brooks

We Sell Our Time No More by Paul Stewart, Ken Murphy et al, pbk, illus., 272pp Pluto Press London £19.99

First of all a word of warning. Despite the snappy title this is not a rank-and-file saga about struggle on the shop floor but rather an academic study of the problems facing workers in the face of a renewed employers’ assault on their terms and conditions.
Written by a team of academics and some union officials this book is packed with historical analysis and useful statistics based on research covering two decades. More precisely this book is a detailed analysis of the unions’ response to “lean production” in the British motor industry. Two of the main contributors, Paul Stewart and Ken Murphy, are pillars of the Automotive Workers’ Research Network. Ken Murphy worked for General Motors for over twenty years and Paul Stewart is Professor of the Sociology of Work and Employment at Strathclyde University in Scotland.
Lean production, devised in Japan and pioneered by Toyota, claims to be an approach which produces world class performance and employee satisfaction. In fact all it consists of is a management programme to replace traditional work-practices with a system that cuts “waste” and tries to use every minute of the workers’ time in the productive process in methods which they call “team work”, “quality circles”, “flexibility” and “just-in-time” production.
It’s a very old game called squeezing as much as you can out of the worker and paying as little as possible in return. In the past organised labour not only regulated pay and conditions but also managed to win significant improvements on the shop floor. Now with the unions crippled by anti-union legislation management has been able to pump up production and impose draconian cuts in pay and conditions.
The book focuses on the unions’ official response and rank-and-file resistance at Vauxhall-GM and Rover/BMW using survey data and discussions with shop-stewards on the front-line. This book is an invaluable aid in the struggle for union officials in manufacturing and beyond as well as providing an important resource for students of industrial relations. It can be readily obtained from any high-street bookshop or ordered from your library.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Oliver Cromwell 1599 - 1658

OLIVER CROMWELL, the leader of the English Revolution, died on 3rd September 1658. Cromwell, the MP for Huntingdon, was the leading Parliamentarycommander during the English Civil War which began in 1642 and ended in1649 with the trial and execution of Charles Stuart and the abolition of the monarchy. The Republic of England, or Commonwealth as it was styled in English, was proclaimed soon after.
The fighting had taken a fearful toll in lives and property in England,Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The death toll including civilians came to around 870,000, some 11.6 per cent of the pre-Civil War population. Material damage was immense, particularly in Ireland.In 1653, Oliver Cromwell became head of state, the Lord Protector. Scotlandhad been brought under Commonwealth control. Royalist hopes of acounter-revolution were crushed with the defeat of their forces at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.The democratic movement born from the New Model Army, the Levellers, was crushed by Cromwell’s supporters and the most militant regiments sent toIreland – in a reconquest whose brutality is remembered to this day.Attempts to set up farming co-operatives by the Diggers, another group bornfrom the Army, were also suppressed.
The republic Cromwell led included England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland as well as colonies in New England and the Caribbean. During its brief life the Commonwealth became a force in Europe. Culturally it inspired the great poetry of Milton and Marvell and other radical and pacifist religiousmovements like the Quakers who are still with us today.
Oliver Cromwell died on 3rd September 1658 and was succeeded by his son,Richard. He was neither a politician nor a soldier. Unable to reconcilerepublican generals with the demands of the rich merchants and landownersto curb the influence of the New Model Army, Richard Cromwell resigned thefollowing year. The government collapsed and the monarchy was restored in1660.Oliver Cromwell’s death had been the occasion of genuine mourning. His funeral, modelled on that of the King of Spain, was the biggest London had ever witnessed.Two years later his body was dug up and ritually hanged in public at Tyburn. Those still alive who had signed Charles Stuart’s death warrant were hanged, drawn and quartered. And the “good old cause” they had fought for was buried with them. It was clear that a great revolution had taken place. It is equally clear that it was incomplete.

1939 -- the outbreak of war

By Eric Trevett

ON SUNDAY 3rd September 1939 families and neighbours throughout Britain were clustered around their radio sets waiting for Neville Chamberlain – the prime minister who had previously announced it was “peace in our time” – to state whether we would be at war with Germany. At 11am he confirmed that we were at war with Germany over the issue of Germany’s invasion of Poland on 1st September; the Nazi government had not responded to Britain’s ultimatum to withdraw from that country.
With war declared a whole lot of things happened quite quickly. More than one-and-a-half million women and children were sent into evacuation from the big cities; rationing was introduced; street names were painted over and the blackout was introduced with no lights to be shown from houses or shops after dark and cars had their dipped lights further light restricted.
And conscription was introduced in stages; at the start of this period there has been one-and-a-half million unemployed. Women were also conscripted – into non-combatant roles in the armed forces and into factory work and the land army – to a much greater extent than in the First World War.
And then nothing happened. There were no air raids and people were encouraged to take advantage of the good weather and go on holiday.
Of course elsewhere a lot was happening but not so much in this country. British planes showered Germany with leaflets indicating it would be a good idea if peace was restored.
By contrast the Germans were preparing to launch their offensives against western European countries.
The period from September 1939 to May 1940 was known as the phoney war. The only acts of war between Britain and Germany took place at sea, where Germany sank a number of merchant ships and British warships pressured the German pocket battleship Graf Spee into blowing itself up.
Meanwhile at home agitation had been growing for a more aggressive war policy. Prime Minister Chamberlain was discredited by his appeasement policies throughout the 30s, which among other things allowed Germany to increase its armed forces seven-fold from 1933.
Agitation for a more aggressive policy towards Nazi Germany resulted in Chamberlain effectively being forced out of office and Winston Churchill became Prime Minister and accepted leader of the country for the duration of the war.
It was recognised that this was an imperialist war but at the same time it was also recognised that Hitler had to be stopped and in the circumstances that could only be achieved by the force of arms.
One of the big problems facing Britain was that although France had six million men under arms it still expected the war to be conducted in much the same way as the First World War – in other words a new war of position, trench warfare, in which front lines of combatants would move back and forth, losing thousands of men to take a few yards of land.
In light of this they built the Maginot Line, named after the French Minister of War who commissioned it. It was an impregnable fortress but the defences were not extended to the sea. The Line was highly armed and equipped and would probably have stopped any invasion directed against it.
The only problem was that the Germans did not see a need to breach it; they circumvented it as they drove through Holland, Belgium and France.
The German breakthrough was at the Ardennes Forest, which the French had deemed to be impenetrable and who therefore put poorly trained and inexperienced soldiers in that area.
British troops were also involved along the Belgian frontier and they too had to retreat in some disorder under the onslaught of the German offensive.
The Germans has mastered the art of modern warfare in a strategy that became known as blitzkrieg. It was a heavy bombing attack by war planes backed up by masses of tanks and armoured cars moving fast and the deployment of land troops to mop up and round up the defeated defending soldiers, who became prisoners of war.
Such was the effectiveness of this strategy that there was only nominal resistance in Belgium and Holland; France capitulated within five weeks.
The retreat as far as Britain was concerned culminated in the evacuation of the expeditionary force at Dunkirk, thanks to the mobilisation of a host of smaller ships as well as the naval contingent. Nonetheless thousands of British troops were made prisoners of war and a great deal of heavy war weaponry was lost.
Churchill proved to be an effective war leader; his resolute and confident assertions in his speeches gave inspiration to the people. He was a good war leader but he was also a treacherous ally, as events later proved. He made a valuable contribution to achieve Britain’s rearmament and capacity for waging effective warfare against the Nazi forces.
He personally saw the German threat as being greater to British interests, in particular to the British colonies, which were being targeted by the Germans. But he also flirted with the idea of going to war with the Soviet Union over the issue of Finland.
Soviet preparations for defending itself against German aggression required access to territories in Finland in order to protect Leningrad. The Finnish government would not agree to this and the Soviet-Finnish war happened.
The British ruling class and media urged all the support it could muster to support Finland. Some aid went and an expeditionary force was standing by when Finland agreed to the Soviet terms for access to the territory required to defend Leningrad.
Undoubtedly some ruling class elements thought this could be a way of declaring war on Russia and resolving the problems with Germany to attack a common enemy. That possibility had now been eliminated.
After the fall of France Churchill said the battle for Europe is over and the Battle of Britain has now begun. It is not altogether clear whether Nazi Germany ever intended to invade Britain. There was only one element of blitzkrieg, namely air power, that could be effectively used and in the struggle for air supremacy over Britain it was Britain who had the initiative. First of all radar enabled our forces to have advance warning of attacks, the number, type and direction of aircraft involved. British pilots were able to take off in the minimum of time and engage the enemy and they were able to engage for longer. The German fighter Messerschmitt 109s fighting over London had only 11 minutes to engage before they had to return to base for refuelling, though their bombers had bigger fuel tanks.
Another factor was the effectiveness of the planes themselves and their well-trained pilots.
The Battle of Britain was won in the air and Churchill made his famous speech: “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.”
What Germany had achieved at this stage of the struggle was a relatively pacified rear whilst it mobilised its forces for the war against the Soviet Union – the war in which, as Churchill stated, the Soviet Red Army tore the guts out of the German war machine.
We shall look at that struggle at a later date.