Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Anti-communism in Europe will not succeed

Joint Statement of the Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe

The Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe condemn the provocative and outrageous initiative of the Foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic to demand that the European Union instigate the legal persecution of all those within the EU who do not accept the so-called reactionary campaigns of rewriting of History and criminalization of communists and communism.
This is a dangerous attempt to generalize the legal persecution and other related measures which are in force in several EU countries against all those who reject the slanders against the historical experiences of socialist construction and against all those who combat the attempts to erase the decisive contribution that the communists gave in struggle for social and labour rights and for democracy in Europe and reject the distortion of the history of the 2nd World War and the unacceptable equation of communism with fascism.
It is not by chance that this initiative is being carried out in a period when working class and popular struggles are strengthening. The expansion of the anti-worker assault goes hand in hand with the expansion of anti-communist measures. The communists are the target of these attacks because they are in the front line of the struggles not only so that the workers do not bear the burden of the capitalist crisis and also because they are the only ones who hold the real solution to capitalist barbarity. The dominant class, understanding full well the impasses of the capitalist system and its irreconcilable contradictions, intensifies its persecutions, threats and crimes. However whatever measures it takes it cannot prevent the inexorable laws of social development, and the necessity of the overthrow of capital’s power. It cannot prevent the strengthening of the organization of the working class and the development of the mass struggle for socialism and communism.
We firmly declare that the anti-communist plans of the bourgeoisie will fail. The superiority of our ideology, the just cause of the working class can break even their harshest measures. We will continue in an even more determined and uncompromising manner in order to defeat the anti-people power of big capital. Anti-communist hysteria will not deceive the working class and popular forces which experience the problems of unemployment, the overturning of social, social-security and labour rights, and capitalist barbarity itself.
We appeal to all democratic, progressive and anti imperialist forces to join us in the struggle against anti-communism, a struggle which is directly connected to the fight for labour and popular rights as well as for social justice, for a world without the exploitation of man by man.

1. Communist Party of Armenia

2. Communist Party of Azerbaijan

3. Communist Party of Belarus

4. Workers' Party of Belgium

5. Communist Party of Britain

6. New Communist Party of Britain

7. Communist Party of Bulgaria

8. Party of the Bulgarian Communists

9. AKEL, Cyprus

10. Communist Party of Denmark

11. Communist Party of Estonia

12. Communist Party of Finland

13. Communist Party of Macedonia

14. German Communist Party (DKP)

15. Communist Party of Greece

16. Hungarian Communist Workers' Party

17. Communist Party of Ireland

18. Party of the Italian Communists

19. Communist Party of Kazakhstan

20. Socialist Party of Latvia

21. Communist Party of Luxembourg

22. Communist Party of Malta

23. Communist Party of Norway

24. New Communist Party of the Netherlands

25. Communist Party of Poland

26. Portuguese Communist Party

27. Romanian Communist Party

28. Communist Party of Russian Federation

29. Communist Party of Soviet Union

30. Communist Workers' Party of Russia - Party of the Communists of Russia

31. Union of CPs-CPSU

32. Party of Communists, Serbia

33. Communist Party of Slovakia

34. Communist Party of Peoples of Spain

35. Communist Party of Sweden

36. Communist Party of Turkey

37. Communist Party of Ukraine

38. Union of Communists of Ukraine

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy New Year!

Best Wishes for
and the
New Year

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Twenty Years Ago... the NEW WORKER

THE SHOPWORKERS’ union Usdaw is winning its campaign to stop stores opening the Sunday before Christmas. Few will attempt to lout the Sunday trading laws in the way they did last weekend.
At least nine local authorities have so far taken out injunctions to enforce the laws. Gateshead borough council is taking Currys, Comet, Children's World and Poundstrecher to court. Burton Group is among the stores that have decided not to open.
Garfield Davies, Usdaw's general secretary said he was "delighted that most responsible retailers recognise that they, like everybody else, have to obey the law of the land."
The stores blamed the recent blizzard and the recession for slow sales. Many retailers have had their eye on Sunday trading for a long time and shown keen interest in the long battle over Sunday trading in the DIY and furnishings sector.


Troops and tanks are in the streets of Albania's cities following two days of riots. An anti-communist rampage was signalled by the ruling Party of Labour to end the dictatorship of the proletariat and allow the establishment of anti-communist parties.
The public foundation of the Democratic Party, a nationalist front which wants a union with the Albanian minority in Yugoslavia, sparked off simultaneous attacks in the capital Tirana and in other major towns, including the port of Durres and the industrial centre of Elbasan.
Party offices were stormed and torched, cars burnt and factories attacked by reactionary gangs, who clashed with the police and army. One hundred and fifty seven will now go on trial and the new chief of police has said new measures of public order.
But President Ramiz Alia intends to press on with political reforms and multi-party elections.

What are communists for?

by Daphne Liddle
THE SIGHT of thousands of angry students on the march through towns and cities throughout England has cheered the older generation of campaigners no end. And so has the emergence of unknown numbers of mostly anonymous cyber warriors inflicting real damage on the powers of western imperialism and oppression through massive revelations of Wikileaks.
Nevertheless our current economic and political situation is gloomy. We are in an economic crisis that is very likely to turn into a double-dip, under a Con-Dem government that is using the economic crisis as an excuse for ideologically driven cuts in public services and in working class living standards (greed for power and wealth is the ideology and religion of the ruling class).
We will need more than student anger and Wikileaks audacity to make our day-to-day lives better. And this is where the Communist political perspective has a vital role to play.
The students and the progressive liberals know what they are against: the unjust wars, the cuts; the exploitation and the oppression. We know what we want to put in the place of this evil system. We know what we are for: socialism. And every now and then we need to raise our eyes and look towards our long-term perspectives and remind ourselves of what civilised society can be under the rule of the working class.
And we need to go out on the streets and the on-line networks to tell all those who are angry, disappointed, frustrated, demoralised and generally miserable under capitalism how their lives could be different, if and when we throw off capitalism and start to build socialism: to tell them it is worth fighting for.
We are for:
• A world where people come home after work at a reasonable hour with still enough time and energy to enjoy being with their families, doing sports and hobbies and there are more leisure activities than collapsing exhausted in front of the television;
• A world where no one fears to lose their job or their income; where employment is a right and all are encouraged and supported to find work that is interesting and fulfilling;
• A world where workers have a right to decent housing and rents are minimal, where no one fears the bailiffs and where homes are built with enough space for adults and children to grow and to play.
• A world where people do not have to wait until they are nearly middle-aged before they can afford to start a family because decent homes and incomes are guaranteed.
• A world where personal debt is something people read about in history books.
• A world where healthcare is guaranteed, free and supplied locally without long journeys to get treatment. And where the elderly get the same standard of treatment as younger people.
• A world where state-provided high-quality childcare is freely available so parents can choose their work patterns and where employers allow parents time off to be with their children.
• A world where education is freely available at every level throughout life, where classes are smaller and every pupil/student gets the support, attention and encouragement they need to fulfil their potential.
• A world where people have the time and the energy for generations to mix and socialise and care for each other so that children, the elderly and those in between feel valued, respected and secure.
• A world where children know their own history and culture and so can recognise and respect other people’s.
• A world where all children learn how to sing, dance and make music and can recognise and reject commercial rubbish “culture” – and recognise what is really good and original.
• A world where we have the time, the energy and can afford to go regularly to the theatre, to concerts and to the cinema.
• A world where we have time to be human, where we are not just “personnel resources” existing for the sole purpose of making money for our bosses, landlords and bank managers.
• A world where there is time to stop and smell the roses.
• A world where ordinary workers can sit in summer under shady trees drinking coffee or beer and arguing intellectual philosophical points at great length.
• A world where we can talk long slow walks at sunset along sandy beaches.

I am getting carried away. But none of these dreams is asking too much in a world where technology can provide so much and it does not take a lot of human labour to provide a decent standard of living for everyone on the planet.
And none of these dreams would harm the environment – indeed it would be much better safeguarded than it is now.
Rich people already live like this but their greed for power and wealth is denying a decent way of life to everyone else on the planet.
For the working classes in the western imperialist countries now life is one long rush to work as many hours as they can, to be at the beck-and-call of demanding bosses, and fit childcare and housework into whatever small margins of time they have left.
Late night trains and buses are crammed with weary workers on their way home; many are young mothers with toddlers in pushchairs who should have been in bed hours ago. Tired workers get irritable with each other and with their children. Housework gets neglected.
Deep debt and job and housing insecurity drive workers to seek ever longer hours while depression and stress are at epidemic levels.
Holidays are impossible. One in five children growing up in England have never been on a beach or paddled. Few inner city children have ever seen the stars properly – away from the perennial glare of neon lighting.
Cinema, concert and theatre visits are out of the question. For many workers, even if they found the time and the money they would probably fall asleep during the performance. Much easier to make do with the TV – you don’t have to dress up; it doesn’t cost anything extra and it doesn’t matter if you do fall asleep.
People struggle to make time for the elderly; grandparents feel neglected and lonely. Teenagers feel that no one has time for them, not to just sit and have a proper conversation. Everyone is alienated; society is fragmented and everyone is miserable.
And we’re living under the threat that it’s all going to get a lot worse with the cuts.
We don’t have to accept this.
We have a lot to fight for – our very humanity. The danger is that so many, with their noses to the grindstone, shackled to impossible and ever more demanding work targets, rarely get the chance to look up and be aware of what they are missing, what is being stolen from them in order to make vast profits for the bosses, bankers and landowners.
In previous generations workers worked in large factories, mines and mills. They stood next to fellow workers in the same situation as themselves. They were not alone in their misery and there was a community spirit. It was this spirit that build the trade unions and the Labour Party to fight back against the exploiters.
And it won significant improvements: shortening the working day, the old age pension, unemployment benefit, the National Health Service, state-financed higher education and welfare services.
Now these gains are steadily being taken from us because, with the passing of large scale industry in Britain that proletarian spirit of community and solidarity has been weakened. And with it the strength of the labour movement has ebbed, leaving us vulnerable to the exploiters’ greed.
We must find ways of overcoming the current isolation and alienation of workers so they do not feel alone with their debts, their exhaustion and all the impossible demands on their time and energy. We must find ways to rebuild the sense of community and solidarity – and outrage at the way they are being exploited. Maybe the internet could be used to rebuild community awareness.
In the meantime we must remember that the “impossible dream” already exists in places like Democratic Korea and Cuba. The Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe did succeed in giving workers a far better quality of life than most of them have now. And in China they are working hard to lay the economic base of a socialist society.
A socialist society is not an impossible paradise: life is not perfect there. There is still bad weather; people fall in and out of love and that is still painful; there are not unlimited resources; not everyone gets a perfect job.
But the workers of the DPR Korea and Cuba work eight hours a day, health care and education at all levels are free. Jobs and housing are secure. There is still occasional hardship but everyone faces it together.
Socialism does not end all misery and it is not perfect. But it does end the causes of misery that are linked specifically to the capitalist system and it does give workers time for leisure, for dignity and for each other – time to be human.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Twenty Years Ago... the New Worker

ONCE AGAIN a major public asset, the electricity industry, has been sold into private hands and once again the British public have been robbed and cheated at every turn of the process.
From the very beginning, when privatisation was being discussed, nuclear power stations had to be taken out of the scheme because they were too expensive for the privatised companies to want them.
Plans for new nuclear power stations were scrapped and the future of the old ones left as a burden for taxpayers. The two new major power generating companies, Powergen and National Power will be sold in February.
Their Privatisation has caused the delay of measures to reduce air pollution from power stations. The costs of having to introduce air scrubbers to clean power station emissions would have made them an unattractive buy. This will cheat the whole of north-west Europe of the possibility of cleaner air.


LECH WALESA is now President of Poland after an overwhelming victory in the second round over Stanislaw Tyminski.
Walesa won over 70 per cent of the vote while Tyminski polled just 25 per cent. Tyminski, an émigré Polish businessman from Canada used get-rich-quick slogans in an election which was dominated by smear campaigns and innuendos.
As both candidates were right-wing reactionaries it was perhaps only natural for the campaign to be quickly reduced to personalities.
Walesa takes over a ruined Poland, where the standard of living has declined by 40 per cent according to official statistics since the socialist government collapsed.
Walesa warned of the beginning of an anti-communist witch-hunt, promising a “settling of accounts for the past,” which can only mean harder times for the impoverished Polish people.

Resolution on the Cyprus Problem

The undersigned parties, which participated in the International Meeting that was held in the framework of the 21st Pancyprian Congress of AKEL in Nicosia-Cyprus, on the 25th of November 2010, having discussed the latest developments regarding the Cyprus problem and the ongoing negotiations between the leaders of the two communities, declare the following:

1. They consider the continued division of the island as illegal, unacceptable and detrimental to the people of Cyprus as a whole; Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
2. They condemn the imperialist conspiracies and interventions that leaded to the invasion and the continuing occupation of 37% of the territories of the Republic of Cyprus for 36 years by Turkey; the Cyprus problem constitutes an international problem of illegal foreign intervention, of violation of core principles of international law, of the UN Charter, of basic principles of European law and of the human rights and civil liberties of its people.
3. Calls for the immediate implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Cyprus, the termination of the occupation, the end of the settlement of the occupied area and the unacceptable status quo, the withdrawal of all Turkish troops and the reinstitution of human rights for the people of Cyprus in its entirety.
4. They condemn the continuing efforts of Turkey to alter the demographic character of the island, through the influx of settlers from mainland Turkey, and the usurpation of land and properties in the areas which are not under the control of the Republic since the 1974 invasion, in violation of international humanitarian law.
5. They express their solidarity to the Cyprus people and underline that the finding of a peaceful, just and viable solution of the Cyprus problem constitutes an urgent priority for the international community.
6. They welcome and support the ongoing substantive inter-communal negotiations taking place under the auspices of the United Nations aiming to the finding of a mutually acceptable, comprehensive solution based on the agreed framework of bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality as prescribed by the relevant UN Resolutions. A solution providing for the transformation of Cyprus into a federal state with a single sovereignty, single international personality and single citizenship.
7. They underline, that the solution must adhere to the principles of International and European law, the UN Security Council Resolutions and the High- Level Agreements between the leaders of the two communities of 1977 and 1979. The solution in Cyprus must safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all citizens, in line with international law, including the right of refugees to return to their homes and properties and the right of the families of missing persons in both communities to be informed of the fate of their loved ones.
8. Underlines that the election of Demetris Christofias to the Presidency of the Republic marked the undertaking of continued initiatives that led to the reopening of direct negotiations between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus that solely aim at finding a durable, functional and just solution of the Cyprus Problem.
9. They welcome the difficult and constant effort of President Christofias to reach a comprehensive solution, and express their strong support to his recent balanced threefold proposal namely the linking of the property issue with the territorial and settlers issue, the return of the fenced city of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants and the convention of an International Conference regarding the International aspects of the solution, once the two sides reach a range of agreement on the other issues.
10. Emphasizes the precision of the agreed framework and the need for the parties to remain committed to this framework. Categorically rejects any effort for introduction of suffocating timetables or arbitration. The Cypriot ownership of the process does not result to the exclusion of the responsibility of Turkey as occupying power.
11. Notes that despite statements and other communication maneuvering, Turkish positions remain, in substance, not supportive to the efforts for finding a solution and continue to be based on the philosophy of two states and the upgrading of the illegal regime of the occupied area. A number of proposals submitted to the negotiations do not fall within the agreed framework for a solution of bicommunal, bizonal federation. The International Meeting denounces this stance and condemns it as it constitutes an obstacle to the progress of the efforts for a solution.

12. They call on the international community as a whole, to exercise its influence on Turkey in order to abandon its current policy towards Cyprus and enable the negotiations to proceed constructively, also taking into consideration the proposal of President Christofias. It is urgent that Turkey proceeds immediately in taking concrete steps in order to reach a comprehensive solution as soon as possible.
13. They express their conviction that the two communities can live together as they have done in the past and build a peaceful, common future in a united, bicommunal, bizonal federal Cyprus; constituting a bridge of peace and multiculturalism in the Eastern Mediterranean region and setting a paradigm for the world community as a whole.

AKEL: A Force for Cyprus A Force for the People

By a New Worker correspondent
That was the slogan that greeted representatives from communist parties all over the world, including NCP leader Andy Brooks, who came to Cyprus last month to join their Cypriot comrades taking part in the 21st Congress of the Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL) that began in Nicosia on 25th November.
AKEL was founded in 1941 but it has a much longer history as it is the direct heir of the old Communist Party of Cyprus (KKK) that was established in 1926 and later banned by the British colonial authorities. Following independence in 1960 AKEL struggled to defend the island from imperialist plots that culminated in the 1974 coup organised by the reactionary Greek military junta that gave Turkey the pretext to invade and occupy northern Cyprus.
AKEL has maintained warm relations with virtually all the communist parties throughout the turbulent history of the world communist movement so it was no surprise to see that the number of fraternal delegations at this Congress was almost equal to that of the annual conference of communist and workers’ parties itself.
Over a hundred fraternal observers representing 67 parties and movements took part in the Congress and an AKEL sponsored conference on the struggle of the left and the struggles of the peoples for world peace and security against the imperialist order. Major communist parties were in the hall including delegations from People’s China, Cuba and Vietnam, the Syrian Arab Socialist Renaissance Party (Baath) as well as some parties of the European Left movement including the Dutch Socialists and the German Left. All the parliamentary parties in Greece and Cyprus were represented at the Congress and the Greek visitors included deputy premier Theodoros Pangalos from the governing social-democratic PASOK movement, Aleka Papariga from the Greek communist party (KKE), the opposition conservative New Democracy and the far-right LAOS movement.
AKEL is a mass party with nearly 15,000 members out of population of 670,000 in the free south of the island and membership has increased by 800 plus since the last Congress in 2005. The membership was reflected in the numbers of delegates taking part in the Congress. Over 1,400 full delegates including a number from AKEL overseas branches in Britain and Greece took part in the debates and votes over the long Congress weekend.
AKEL formed a left-leaning government after it won the Cyprus parliamentary elections in 2006 and its then leader, Dimitris Christofias, won the presidential race in 2008. But AKEL’s leaders stress that it is a “governing” – not a “ruling” party. Though the coalition is committed to social justice it is administering the economy rather than steering it towards socialist reform. Amongst other things this is largely because no major advances can be made while the island remains divided and occupied by Turkish forces. The end of partition and the restoration of a united republic with full rights for both the Turkish and Greek communities is the paramount objective of AKEL and its allies.
Nicosia is now the only divided capital in the world and the continuing division of the island, of course, dominated much of the Congress. The Turkish government publicly says that it will never betray the interests of the Turkish Cypriot community to obtain admission into the European Union. But everybody knows they would if that was the price to pay to join the European club and everybody also knows that Turkey’s accession is as far away as ever in these days of slump.
If the Turks were seriously concerned about the fate of the Turkish Cypriots they would have done more to preserve their community in northern Cyprus rather than seeing it evaporate over the years through immigration. Though the ethnic balance is maintained through immigration from the poorest parts of Turkey about half the original Turkish Cypriot population now live in Britain and other parts of the European Union while the rest are outnumbered by Turkish immigrants encouraged to settle since the invasion in 1974.
Turkey occupies 36 per cent of the island which is administered by “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” – a phantom state governed by Turkish Cypriot leaders and recognised by no-one apart from Turkey itself. Real power lies with the Turkish “ambassador” and the 40,000 Turkish troops based in the north. Some 200,000 Greek Cypriots were driven out of their homes after the invasion while 50,000 Turkish Cypriots were incited to move to the north.
In 2004 the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities voted on a United Nations plan to end partition. It was accepted by the Turkish Cypriots but rejected by the Greek community, largely because it met more Turkish requirements but failed to meet core Greek demands. Talks between the two communities continue but no-one expects a breakthrough unless there is a dramatic change of policy in Turkey.
Of all the predominantly Greek Cypriot parties AKEL has the best credentials for negotiating with the Turkish Cypriot community. The Cypriot communist movement has always fought against nationalism and chauvinism. The Party has Turkish Cypriot members and from the very beginning the Cypriot communist movement worked to end ethnic divisions to build united unions and a united working class. AKEL considers that the Cyprus problem should be resolved on the basis of the UN resolutions based in the framework of a bizonal and bicommunal federation with a single sovereignty, single international personality and single citizenship, with the human rights and freedoms of all Cypriots guaranteed. AKEL calls for an end to the Turkish occupation and the demilitarisation of the island and the closure of the British, Turkish and Greek bases.
The AKEL leadership does acknowledge that the current Islamic-leaning Turkish government is more realistic than the old guard parties that had dominated Turkish politics for the past 60 years. More check-points have been opened along the cease-fire line making it easier for Turkish Cypriots to look for work in the more prosperous south and making it easier for southerners and tourists to visit the north of the island.
But the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which came to power in 2002, has its own agenda that focuses on the restoration Islamic practices outlawed by General Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern secular Turkey who ruled the country from 1923 until his death in 1938. The AKP government kept Turkey out of the Iraq war and it has developed closer ties with its Arab neighbours including the Palestinians. At the same time Turkey has sought to strengthen its position as the eastern flank of Nato to establish itself as the major power in the eastern Mediterranean.
Delegates also pondered on the impact of the global slump and the actions that the AKEL-led government has to take to deal with the crisis. Though Cyprus was better placed to withstand the storm the largely tourist dependent economy has been hit by a five per cent drop in visitors which has had a knock-on effect on the property market. The government is hoping that increased tourism from Russia will fill the gap but it is also planning to curtail the civil service payroll and raise taxes on a number of products, including medicines and foodstuffs to slash the deficit and achieve the EU goal of 4.5 per cent of GDP by the end of 2011. This isn’t enough for the right-wing opposition which wants sweeping cuts in the public sector and more incentives for the market economy and the issue will be fiercely argued during next year’s parliamentary and local elections.
The Cypriot communist movement has thrived despite all the twists and turns within the communist movement. A revisionist, liquidationist trend was defeated in the late 1980s when huge parties, millions strong were collapsing in the people’s democracies of eastern Europe. AKEL has become the leading player in the Cyprus parliament working together with other democratic forces to defend working people and foster peace and reconciliation with the Turkish community. AKEL has established links with some left social-democratic parties in Europe while continuing to play an important role in the network of communist and workers parties because it has retained the ideology of Marxism-Leninism and the long-term objective for the socialist transformation of Cypriot society. There can be little doubt that AKEL will continue to defend and advance the interests of the working people of Cyprus from both the Greek and Turkish communities in the years to come.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The worker and the machine

By Eric Trevett

THE MAIN factors in the economy of class divided and exploitative societies are first the labour power of the slave in slave society, the peasant in feudal society and the worker in capitalist society. The second main feature is the process of production and the instruments and tools that are available and the personnel able to use them.
There is a relationship between these two factors and the type of society in which they develop. Generally speaking the revolutionary development of the means of production is not matched straight away by fundamental changes in society.
In all stages of the development of humanity there is conflict between the oppressed and their rulers arising from their opposed interests. That lasted for thousands of years and included violence and slave revolts – the most well-known one was led by Spartacus. These revolts were brutally suppressed. Similarly in feudal society there were peasant revolts, the most notable of which in Britain was led by Wat Tyler against the poll tax in 1381.
Under the influence of extended trade wool became an important commodity and the feudal landlords and emerging capitalists forced the peasants from the land. Huge tracts of the country were enclosed for sheep pasture and peasants were forced out at sword point to a life of destitution.
Vagrancy was considered a crime for which many were hanged. Others resettled themselves into cottage industries and the small but growing towns.
The emergent capitalist class challenged for state power with the civil war against the claimed divine right of kings and against the Catholic Church and its doctrine against usury, which was the main obstacle to the growth of trade and quests for colonisation.
Industrial methods of production, in the early stages of capitalism, caused tremendous suffering. Apart from the undermining of the cottage industries, the cotton industry, for example, employed many children as well as adults and the employers fought a rearguard to defend their right to employ children. These children suffered ill health and sometimes horrendous injuries arising from their working conditions.
In the United States the oppressive laws against black people and discrimination on race lines in the US forces were not discarded until the 1950s.
The main feature of capitalist production methods is the boom and slump cycle where so many commodities are produced that there is not enough purchasing power in the national or international markets to absorb them.
These crises, including the one that happened in the 1930s, arise essentially from the scale of overproduction. Crops were often destroyed by poisoning them so they could not be eaten to keep the price of food commodities high in saturated markets.
The major part in achieving better working conditions and better education and health provision came about through the militant activity of the trade unions. Their role in present and futures struggles is crucial. At present the battle is to defend, maintain and improve the current standard of living from a policy of cuts.
Following the 1984-5 miners’ strike in Britain the engineering industry was decimated. Literally thousands of factories in manufacturing were closed.
Throughout the capitalist period new machines have replaced older ones, increasing the production rates and making production less labour intensive. The new electronic technology has affected a number of industries in the recent past. Capitalism has changed the nature of the printing industry. The typewriter has been made obsolete and instead of umpteen drafts of statements being prepared with amendments, deletions and insertions, today these changes are completed on the computer screen and copies run off as required. This enables Cameron to target staffing levels and make cuts in the public sector.
The development and application of new technology affects both industry and commerce to the detriment of employment prospects for the working class. This now includes people who are in the middle strata, such as managers.
Robots are increasingly employed in manufacturing, especially spot welding in the car industry and it is reported that in Scotland that machines are predicted to take over cleaning work to replace jobs presently done by human cleaners.
We have reached a stage in capitalist development where industry and commerce are going to be even less labour intensive. The ruling class is trying to manipulate the education system to give more priority to those students involved in engineering, mathematics, science and technology. They want to develop a sort of elite without any understanding of the role of the organised working class and isolated from the organisations of the working class movement, especially the trade unions.
Another feature from a capitalist point of view is the advancing computer literacy of the working class, especially the youth. In the past new technology was considered to be the cause of the misery of the working class and sections of the working class opposed the introduction of new industrial machinery as in the Luddite movement, which of course was abortive.
We should welcome the introduction of new technology as it has the potential to raise living standards and to advance scientific and cultural standards as well as fulfilling people’s economic needs. But for that to happen there has to be a fundamental change in the nature of society.
What technology cannot do is to continue to expand the economic system without the boom and slump cycle. Indeed the new technology plus the anarchy of capitalist production, in which competition for markets becomes more bitter, will exacerbate this destructive cycle.
The factories of the future are likely to be much more clinical in appearance and in working conditions. They are unlikely to include large concentrations of workers as was seen in the car industry. Much of the work will be spread out at different sites and done in clinical conditions to reduce the airborne dust particles polluting the parts being assembled. In short the new technology will undermine the building of working class solidarity.
The current growing militancy in the fight against Government cuts is a welcome development. It must expand into a movement brining all workers into the struggle against the cuts through being united, with a policy of “a cut against one is a cut against all”.
The struggle to defend jobs has to be a political struggle as well. This is fundamental if the new technology is to serve the interests of the people rather than the profits of the capitalist class.
And we stress that in the absence of a Marxist-Leninist party, having mass influence in the context of a united trade union movement, the revolutionary changes that are necessitated by the new technology will not be realised. This is a problem that the labour movement and its allies must face and resolve.

Fighting for Health & Safety

Book review

By Robert Laurie

Tony O’Brien: Construction Safety Campaign: Over Twenty Years Fighting for Workplace Health and Safety London: Construction Safety Campaign, 2010 pp. 211. £10.00 plus £2.00 pp from the Construction Safety Campaign, PO Box 23844, London SE15 3EA.

AS THE title implies this book is a history of the work of the Construction Safety Campaign, an organisation established in London by rank and file building workers in 1988 with the motto: “Safety before Profits”. The 1980s saw a rapid rise in construction related deaths during the boom that saw the derelict London docks transformed into the bankers’ paradise of Canary Wharf.
Dissatisfaction with the slow response of the official union leadership sparked the launch of the campaign. At first the main construction union Ucatt was hostile to the formation of the CSC, but under pressure from branches it has become a supporter.
The campaign has focused on several issues. Apart from seeking to improve health and safety on building sites it has also assisted in the campaign to secure a pardon for the Shrewsbury building workers jailed in 1973 for fighting for their rights.
Working at great heights, collapsing trenches, cranes and walls are not the only dangers facing building workers. No less dangerous, but much slower to cause damage, are the dangers of asbestos. Once inhaled, microscopic asbestos particles slowly destroy lung tissue, condemning the sufferer to a lingering painful death.
Securing compensation through the courts is particularly difficult as the symptoms only appear years or decades after inhalation and are almost impossible to trace back to a particular incident for which a particular employer can be held responsible.
A major theme of the book is the struggle to get compensation for workers killed or injured on building sites. The book illustrates many cases of long court cases. Relatives of building site tragedies have became valuable CSC activists. Securing punishment for negligent employers has been even more of an uphill struggle. It was only in 1995 that a company director was finally jailed for corporate manslaughter.
Prevention is better than seeking compensation after a death. The CSC has been involved in campaigning for changes to the law and enforcing those laws which are on the statute book. It campaigned for a ban on asbestos imports from Canada.
Workers’ Memorial Day on the 28th April has developed as a major labour movement event thanks to the work of the campaign. Blacklisting of union activists is especially common in the construction industry, many cases are detailed here.
While this is a valuable well illustrated reference work, presenting much important information useful for any activist involved with the construction industry and other health and safety matters the format makes it hard going at times.
The largely chronological format of the book makes it difficult to keep track of individual issues that appear at different points in the book. Statistics for construction site deaths are given for 1989-2000 on page 96 and for 2003-8 on page 148 in a different format. Given this arrangement it is sad to report that the index is particularly poor.
Not only is it very incomplete (no mention of Ucatt) it seems to have been computer generated without any editing whatsoever. The bibliography simply lists periodical titles without letting the reader know which issue to consult. There is a much more helpful two-page list of sources of information.
In the capitalist media health and safety have become something of a joke with stories such a schools ordering pupils playing conkers being forced to wear goggles gaining wide currency. The Con-Dem government’s recent plan to cut the Health and Safety Executive’s funding by 35 per cent is yet another battle which the Construction Safety Campaign will doubtless play an important role.

TWENTY YEARS AGO... the New Worker

THE NATIONAL Union of Teachers has criticised the Labour Party’s new education policy because it does not promise better pay and conditions.
Unveiled this week, Labour’s election manifesto is very thin on genuine proposals. The promises on nursery places have been heard before, comments about giving education priority over tax cuts is not a commitment to more money for schools.
Proposals for a new Education Standards Council merely acquiesce to the Tory’s regular bleatings about standards.
One vice-president of an NUT association in the Midlands was very critical. “Labour should be saying that it will repeal the worst aspects of the Tory’s education reform act”, she told the New Worker.
“There’s nothing in the programme about restoring teachers’ full negotiating rights. It may already be Labour policy, but it has to be in there if Labour wants to win teachers”.


THE GORBACHOV leadership is begging for imperialist aid as the country faces famine and starvation this winter. Despite a bumper harvest Soviet citizens face starvation following the collapse of the transport and distribution network due to the dismantling of central planning and introduction of the market economy in the republics.
In the Russian Federation the anti-communist republican government passed the first measures to break up the collective farms and restore private land ownership, while leagues of descendants of former landlords and nobility are holding meetings to establish their claim to land and property confiscated after the October Revolution.
A law permitting workers’ committees to control the distribution of food and other essentials and the right to try black marketers is unlikely to be effective against the muscle of the spivs and gangsters who have mushroomed in Leningrad and Moscow.