Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Health and Safety must come first

The Johnson government’s decision to ease the lockdown regime is fraught with danger. Shamefully, Britain has one of the highest death tolls in the world from the coronavirus plague. But the number of cases has been steadily falling in recent weeks. Though the infection rate has dipped since it peaked in April there is no time for complacency. A reliable track-and-trace system is still not in place and a vaccine is not likely to be available until the New Year. Meanwhile medical experts are warning us of the real risk that a second wave of coronavirus could be triggered by the premature ending of the emergency and that it could be even worse than the first.
Speaking in the House of Commons this week Boris Johnson announced the easing of the emergency regulations to re-open pubs and restaurants and help get workplaces back up and running. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he welcomed the Prime Minister's latest announcement on the easing of lockdown. The tame leader of the opposition said Labour would “scrutinise the details” of the announcement but Starmer believed “the government is trying to do the right thing, and in that we will support them”. But Richard Burgon, the campaigning left Labour MP, was more robust when he asked the Prime Minister why - when his Government's many failures have already led to tens of thousands of needless deaths - he is gambling with people's lives by lifting restrictions before it is safe to do so.
Meanwhile the TUC is urging the Government to announce spending plans to avoid wide-scale unemployment when the furlough scheme ends in October. They say that 1.24 million jobs could be created by 2022, including 40,000 in telecoms with upgrades to high-speed broadband and 38,000 jobs in decarbonising tech.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "We need to work our way out of recession. Investing in infrastructure now will help to create jobs across the economy and limit the fallout from coronavirus. And it will stop the devastation of mass unemployment.
“We should lose no time getting shovels in the ground. Next month's budget must be used to green-light spending on homes, faster broadband, better transport links and greener technology.
“Alongside investment in infrastructure to create great new jobs, we need a job guarantee scheme for young workers and rescue packages for badly hit sectors. And we need a new drive to ensure that the recession does not worsen existing labour market inequalities. The more people we can keep in work, the faster we'll bounce back from this crisis”.
            Health and safety, above all, must come first. In the finance, construction and transport sectors which remained open throughout the lockdown the unions have had to fight to ensure that Management implemented the emergency measures the medical profession and the Government recommended to secure a safe environment. Workplaces should now only be reopened if there is evidence that it is safe to do so. Greater testing must be in place, followed up by contact tracing, and PPE should be supplied where needed.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Well, it’s only common sense, isn’t it?

Bishop Berkeley
 By Ray Jones

It’s often claimed during discussion and arguments that something or other is common sense. Sometimes as a last resort when backed into a corner but sometimes in all seriousness as a triumphant coup to end debate.
But what is common sense? A dictionary definition says it’s “Sound and prudent judgement based on a simple perception of the situation or facts” which seems reasonable but leaves much unclear. What is “sound and prudent”? What is “a simple perception”?
Perhaps we can assume that sound and prudent means something like “what most people would think sound and prudent” or “what a wise person would think”. Which when you consider it are not necessarily the same thing at all and anyway, do we know what most people think or which wise person is being referred to? If we do know what most people think (eg: via a poll) or which wise person is referred to does it follow they are right? Majorities are not always right and wise people are sometimes wrong.
The second part of the definition is perhaps even more difficult. Does “a simple perception” mean a perception by someone who is simple (in a good way or a bad way)? or a perception which is not complex or scientific – why should this be better or worse?
Is common sense merely the view of “the man on the Clapham omnibus” (as philosophers use to say in less PC times)? British academic philosophers, often wandering in obscure unrealistic thought, are sometimes reproached by their rivals with the cry that have gone too far from ordinary language, too far from how the  people in the street think. The response may be, “So what?” but it often makes them stop and reconsider.
It is sometimes amazing what philosophers believe the average person thinks or may think. Bishop George Berkeley (1685 - 1753) seems to have genuinely believed that they would easily agree with him that no solid matter existed in the world, only spirits and their ideas and that this did not seriously conflict with their everyday outlook and conduct.
In spite of some philosophers people have generally believed in the material world. But having said that they have very often believed in gods, spirits and ghosts as well.
Many things considered common sense in the past are generally thought just wrong now. For example for centuries it was taken for granted in the West that the Sun and planets circled the Earth and that the Earth was the centre of the universe. Our everyday experiences and perceptions appeared to prove this – and it said so in the Bible.
It was not until there were technological advances and social changes that this belief was undermined, eventually rejected and a replaced by a new common sense.
The idea of a Sun-centred universe in the West came from Copernicus (1473 – 1543) but not published by him until just before his death. He was reluctant to publish because he feared being laughed at and persecuted by the Catholic Church – both fears were realistic. It was not until many years later, when feudalism had decayed still more and science had advanced, that the theory became generally accepted.
The common sense of the day, the one that dominates, comes from the ruling class, the class that controls the means of production and exchange. It is propagated through their control of education, communication and religion and changes as that class changes in the development of society.
But it changes more profoundly when the old society breaks down entirely and a revolution produces a new ruling class. Because in class societies the oppressed classes produce their own common sense which often conflicts with that of the ruling class and after a revolution will replace much of it.
Different ways of making a living, different relationships with the means of production, can produce these different ways of looking at things.
Owners of industry will foist some ideas of common sense on their employees but not all their ideas and not all employees. “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay” is a phrase often used by both capitalists and workers but what is meant by “fair” can be quite different because of their different and conflicting stand points. As the old society goes into crisis these conflicts become more serious, they are part and parcel of the leap from one type of society to another – of a social revolution.
Common sense then can be progressive or reactionary or neutral. There is no simple single common sense. As we always have to ask, “Democracy for whom?” we have to ask, “Common sense for whom and in whose interests?”

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Stalin and Victory

By Oleg Kolesnikov

Young communists marked the 75th anniversary of the Victory of the USSR and its allies in the Second World War with a picket outside the city administration block in the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk in central Siberia.
Although limited in size by the strict regulations imposed to contain the coronavirs pandemic, the people of the city supported the picket organised by the Komsomol of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF).
The main theme of the picket was the significance and role of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief J V Stalin in the victory of the USSR over fascism.
When monuments to Soviet soldiers and commanders are being demolished in Poland and monuments to the collaborationist ‘Russian Liberation Army’ of  the traitor Vlasov are going up in the Czech republic; when the governments of Western countries ‘forget’ to mention the USSR as the main force that defeated fascism, the Komsomol of the Krasnoyarsk Territory remembers who was the supreme commander of the Red Army during the Second World War.
From the very first hours of the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet people, Stalin had to resolve the most complicated problems of conducting armed struggle. The real situation on the front required an immediate and radical revision of previous plans and views on the methods of waging war and armed struggle. It was necessary resolutely to abandon the old military dogma that had been considered unshakable, to find new, unorthodox solutions. And all this had to be done with a desperate lack of time in the face of a swift attack by the enemy.
Stalin was the leader during this critical, difficult period of the war – but the commander who does not allow for the defeat of his troops at the beginning of the war can already be said to have won it. The first massive strikes of the Nazis failed to defeat the Red Army.
Stalin was not just a well-educated man. He was a creative Marxist who knew how to deal with fundamental military issues and the pressing problems of military theory and science. He studied seriously the works of the greatest bourgeois military theorist Karl Clausewitz. He knew the works of Suvorov and Napoleon, and those of Dragomirov and Moltke, as well as the military writings of Engels and Franz Mehring, as well as many other military authors.
Stalin studied the work of contemporary Soviet historians and theoreticians of military affairs, primarily EV Tarle and BM Shaposhnikov. Stalin's role in solving these difficult tasks that the Soviet Union faced during the war cannot be underestimated. Not a single important decision was made without his participation.
Stalin, the Supreme Commander, played a large role in disrupting the German blitzkrieg and organising the counter-offensive of the Red Army in the most difficult conditions of the battle for Moscow.
During the war, Stalin repeatedly demonstrated the ability to brilliantly solve complex problems when military-political, strategic, diplomatic and psychological factors were intertwined. One should surely agree with Churchill, who said: “It is very fortunate for Russia in her agony to have this great rugged war chief at her head. He is a man of massive outstanding personality, suited to the sombre and stormy times in which his life has been cast; a man of inexhaustible courage and will-power, and a man direct and even blunt in speech, which, having been brought up in the House of Commons, I do not mind at all, especially when I have something to say of my own.”