Year 2000 No. 148, September 11, 2000
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
London Regional Forum on the Mass Party Press and Organisational Work
Dudley NHS Workers Hold Successful Rally
Millennium Summit ends with More Promises than Action
Fidel Castro on Shaking Hands with Clinton
Remembering Larkin 2000
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On Thursday, September 7, RCPB(ML) in the London Region held the fourth in a series of fortnightly Forums focusing on the Mass Party Press. The Forums are at the centre of the work of the Party in the London Region and have established their own agenda where study, discussion and organising work all find their place in order to facilitate the Partys activists and supporters going into motion as an organised force to advance the work in the region.
In keeping with its well-established agenda, the Forum commenced with study and discussion on The Line of March to a New Society, the political report on the work of the Central Committee to the Partys 3rd Congress. One of the key issues that arose in the discussion was the question of how to create the conditions so that the working class can take centre stage and unite all the people around its independent programme in order to move society forward from capitalism to socialism. It was pointed out that it is in the creation of these conditions that the work to build the Mass Party Press and consolidate the Party on a new historic basis plays a crucial role. The Partys paper, Workers Weekly, is not only the scaffolding around which the Party is built in the heart of the class, but it also provides the means for giving direction to and organising the broad masses of the people. The first part of the Forum was concluded with discussion of readers views on Workers Weekly; a report of the mass dissemination programme that had been successfully initiated in the Region, and discussion on the plans to begin to build groups of writers and disseminators for the paper. Further encouragement was given to all the activists and supporters to step up the submission of articles to Workers Daily Internet Edition, utilising it as the instrument with which collective self-consciousness is developed and collective self-motion is organised.
In the second part of the Forum a representative of the Party centre concluded the presentation on "The Mass Party Press and Organisational Work" that had been started in the previous Forum. He pointed out, first of all, that the Partys cutting edge work remained the task to Improve the Content, Extend the Readership of Workers Weekly and the need to organise the workers, youth and other section of the people around writing for and disseminating the paper. It was in this context that it was proposed that in the London Region itself the key task should be mobilising the maximum numbers to read, study, discuss, disseminate and finance Workers Weekly.
The representative also explained that consolidating the Party on a new historic basis required all the Partys activists and basic organisations to act as pathfinders, elaborating the Partys line in the concrete conditions of their lives and work and acting as political leaders amongst the people. At the same time the whole Party must be concerned with the need to advance the class struggle around the tasks the Party is putting forward to provide a way out of the crisis and create public opinion in favour of the views of the communists. In this regard, it is vital to solve the problem of establishing the distribution of Workers Weekly on a mass scale. This work also includes building the unity of the communist movement, around the programme that the Party is putting forward for the class and uniting all the Marxist-Leninists in one mass communist party. It was pointed out that the key to success at this stage of the Partys work lies in developing and consolidating a body of activists and workers as a conscious and organised vanguard, in that they grasp the link between the Partys tasks and those of the class and act on that basis.
The Forum concluded in a lively atmosphere with further discussion and with all those present making a financial contribution to the Partys work in the Region. Over £120 was raised from this collection.
On Saturday, 250 people attended a successful rally at Hollyhall School in Dudley, West Midlands, for the UNISON strikers at the hospital sites of Wordsley, Corbetts and Guests.
The strike is being held to stop the governments proposed Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which will close these hospitals and open a new "super" hospital. This will mean that ancillary workers would be forced to transfer to the private company leasing the proposed new site. This will mean bed losses, disruption and/or redundancies, pay cuts and poorer working conditions.
The workers have gradually escalated the strike from two days to four, then to the period of seven days which have just ended, an action which they are due to repeat from midnight, Sunday, September 18.
Strikers and UNISON contingents attended the rally from Birmingham, Newcastle City Health, Middlesex, Tower Hamlets, West Midlands, Manchester Community Health Branch, and Telford along with representatives from various socialist groups.
The strikers have also received international support, having received donations and messages from Finnish trade unionists of £1,000, and other amounts from California, South Africa, Bulgaria, Australia, Russia and the Association of African and Arab Trade Unionists.
Mark New of UNISON, who chaired the rally, announced a demonstration on Saturday, September 23, at Corbett Hospital, Stourbridge, saying that it would be "a rallying point for all those who wanted to defend the NHS". He also suggested that we should take a "French lesson", referring to the recent blockades of the Channel ports by French lorry drivers.
Fiona Westwood, from UNISON, quoted Chancellor Gordon Brown as saying that nothing could be done because the PFI contracts "have been signed". She went on to say that the workers have shown "great courage and perseverance" despite similar snubs from other MPs and what has amounted to a smear campaign in the local media, saying that the membership of UNISON (1.3 million) "wholly support the strike".
Andy Smith, from NATFHE (representing college lecturers), reported on the situation in Sheffield where there are plans to make up to 180 teaching staff redundant to reemploy them as agency staff. He stressed that New Labours rhetoric and what happens in reality are two entirely different things. They have voted for an indefinite strike starting on September 18. This will coincide with the second seven-day UNISON strike.
There was a letter of support from one of the consultant physicians from Corbetts, Dr Adrian Hamlin.
Paul Marks, the National Secretary of UNISON, stated that "UNISON is totally opposed to PFI". He also pointed out that 4,000 beds have been lost through PFI schemes throughout Britain. He was lobbying the union for hardship payments to ease the financial sacrifice being made by the strikers.
Bob Piper, the Regional Convenor of UNISON, mentioned that fire-fighters have taken encouragement from the action and that they are going to fight the plans to close the fire-stations in Willenhall and Bloxwich to open a PFI "super-hospital" in Walsall. He stressed the importance of strengthening solidarity between different branches, the members of which can often feel isolated in their struggles. He made the point that, as PFI schemes borrow money from the private sector at higher rates and for longer terms than would be available to the government, they were economically a raw deal for local authorities. He said that the government was "mortgaging peoples futures".
Yunus Baksh, from Northern Regional Healthcare, sent greetings from northern workers who had raised £3,000. In reference to the French blockades, he said that there was "a spirit of resistance in the air". His response to John Prescotts claim that this action was "not the British way" was that this kind of militancy used to be known as "the British disease". He mentioned that he expected more than "mere words" from the Labour Party, considering that UNISON paid them one million pounds in subscriptions every year. He decried that attitude of Labour whose view was that "everything can be sold with reference to the private sector" and said that we "dont need politicians to do it for us", meaning that workers should fight their own battles and set their own agenda. He stressed that "moral authority", or "having right on your side", was not enough, quoting the failed dockers and Magnet workers' strikes as an example. What was needed was practical support and for workers to go out and gain support from other sections of the work force and that such action "gives you stature". He asked whether we want a health service to be "run for profit, or for people?" His final comment was: "We want to see a different type of society . It is a battle for the future."
Dave Nellist, former Labour MP and now Socialist Alternative councillor from Coventry, highlighted the campaign against hospital closures to create a PFI hospital on the outskirts of the city. According to recent research, the average bed loss for PFI throughout the country was 30% as they were "based on profit and not on local needs". He suggested that one of the governments motivations for introducing PFIs was the European Unions limit on spending, which is set at a specified percentage of a countrys GDP (Gross Domestic Product), and that PFI spending wouldnt show up on the balance sheet. The government could then be seen to "get away" with spending more, without inducing penalties from Brussels.
John Hill, the Deputy Registered Secretary of UNISON, pledged his support, saying that at a recent Labour Party meeting, Labour members expressed both support for the strikers and bewilderment at the governments plans.
The NHS workers conflict such as at Dudley brings into sharp focus the political nature of these struggles. The issue for workers is not just the "saving" of individual jobs, but what sort of NHS we want: an industry for profit, or a service that serves the interests of the patients and staff?
A wider view would be: in whose interest should our society be run? Should it be run in the interests of the multinationals and for maximum profit, or in the interests of the British people?
Workers are beginning to see that they have the power to set their own agenda, rather than it being set by politicians or party leaders.
Donations should be sent to UNISON Dudley Group of Hospitals, Union Offices, Wordsley Hospital, Stourbridge, West Midlands, DY8 5QX. Telephone/Fax: 01384 244350. Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you wish to support the NATFHE strike in Sheffield, contact John Cowley, Sheffield College, Castle Centre, Sheffield S2 2RL. Phone (Sheffield) 2602691 Email: email@example.com
The news agency Prensa Latina carried the following signed article on September 9, 2000:
A final declaration, after about 180 speeches in three days, marked the close of the Millennium Summit, which was filled with promises and hopes but few concrete actions aside from the Cuban offer to send as many as 3,000 doctors to Africa.
Attended by 147 heads of state or government, plus high-level delegations, the largest meeting in the history of the United Nations was held on Wednesday through Friday at the UN headquarters in New York. The aim of the conference was to discuss the dangers to world peace and security, and how they can be protected.
Poverty, underdevelopment, devastating diseases such as AIDS, illiteracy, conflicts and internal wars, peacekeeping operations and the necessary reforms of the UN and especially the Security Council were the subjects covered in one way or another by the dignitaries.
Cuban President Fidel Castro confirmed that he is a leader in word and deed, offering the World Health Organisation up to 3,000 doctors to send to Africa, the region most affected by AIDS and other deadly epidemics, in order to cure and train local medical personnel.
Without mentioning that a small blockaded country was the one to make such an offer, the Cuban leader challenged the powerful and rich nations of the North to do more with their millions of dollars in economic and financial reserves.
At the Summit, most of the speakers criticised the United States for not paying its UN dues and demanded that the Security Council be reformed, especially in terms of expanding the number of permanent members.
The body charged with maintaining peace and security has 15 members, five of which (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China) are permanent members with the power to veto any decision made. Another 10 countries are chosen for two-year periods.
As for peacekeeping missions, a mini-summit of the Security Council approved a declaration committing the Council to forming a well-trained, well-equipped, well-commanded contingent (army?) capable of responding quickly to conflicts.
The declaration was not approved by the traditional vote for a draft resolution, indicating that there was disagreement among the 15 presidents and prime ministers concerning the nature of peacekeeping operations and the principles of sovereignty, independence and respect for the internal affairs.
The organisation is currently involved in 14 peacekeeping operations, almost all of them in the world's poorest countries, with 37,000 civilian and military personnel at an annual cost of $2.2 billion USD.
The leaders of the Middle East centred their efforts on reviving the talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but Tel Aviv's refusal to withdraw from eastern Jerusalem, where the Palestinians plan to have their future state capital, made any progress impossible.
The African continent was given special attention through a Summit declaration adopted by acclamation, in which the heads of state and government committed themselves to promoting democracy, strengthening respect for human rights and halting the spread of AIDS.
Festus Mogae, president of Botswana, launched a dramatic appeal, noting that each day lost to action is a day too late for the African peoples. He added that the people of Africa are crying out for help, and the world must respond while there is still time.
The rhetorical response of the powerful came in a speech which was more paternalistic than practical, given by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who urged the leaders to enter a new era of alliance with the African continent, in order to aid the Africans to resolve their conflicts and develop their economies.
Granma International Online Edition carried this following explanation by the Cuban President:
Following the lunch given by the UN secretary-general, after the opening session of the Millennium Summit had ended, we were told to walk to the place where the official photo would be taken. We walked toward that spot, almost one by one, along a narrow path among the many tables. Barely four meters ahead, I saw Clinton greeting various heads of state passing by there. Out of courtesy, the president shook the hand of each one of them. I couldn't run off to avoid walking through there, nor could he run off. That would have been shameful cowardice on both our parts. I moved forward along with everyone else. In about two minutes I arrived at the spot where I had to pass in front of him. Like the rest, I stopped for a few seconds, and in a totally dignified and courteous manner I greeted him; he did the same, and I moved on. It would have been extravagant and rude to do anything else. The whole thing took less than 20 seconds.
This minor incident became known quickly. Many press agencies reported the facts in a kind tone. Scores of rumors went flying. Poorly informed press spokespersons gave out various versions.
The Miami mafia got hysterical. According to them, the president had committed a great crime. That's the extreme to which their fundamentalism goes.
As for me, I am satisfied with my respectful and civilized behavior toward the president of the country which hosted the Summit.
Statement from the James Larkin Commemoration Committee
Saturday, September 9, 2000
March & Rally
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2000
Assemble 12.00 noon Mount Pleasant
City Centre Route.
Bands in attendance
Who is James Larkin?
James Larkin was born in Liverpool of Irish parents toward the end of the last century and remains a central figure in the development of the trade union movements in Ireland and Britain. Having seen the lot of the working classes through working as a labourer at the Liverpool Docks, Larkin became an active socialist and was subsequently elected General organiser for the National Union of Dock Labourers. Larkin then extended his work to Belfast in 1907 and Dublin 1908 were he became involved in industrial disputes throughout Ireland. In December 1908 he founded the Irish Transport & General Workers Union and became its General Secretary.
This year is the 3rd annual James Larkin Commemoration March & Rally, which aims to commemorate the life and work of James Larkin and what that means for todays socialists and trade unionists. The event will also highlight the continued need for freedom, justice and peace in Ireland and the need for a democratic 32 county socialist republic. The following speakers from the Irish and trade union communities will address the rally:
Alex McFadden Merseyside Trades Council
Jim Slaven James Connolly Society (Edinburgh)
Nick Mullen Wolfe Tone Society
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