Year 2000 No. 40, March 3, 2000

The Coverage of Workers’ Struggles

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The Coverage of Workers’ Struggles

Oppose the Move of the US Navy to Extend their Bombing from Vieques to Scotland!

Letter to the Editor
Government Even Has Targets on Suicides!

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The Coverage of Workers’ Struggles

As the whole of society feels the effects of the stepped up anti-social offensive, so too is growing the sentiment to oppose this offensive. In particular, in addition to the workers’ livelihoods being increasingly threatened by the escalating concentration of the monopolies and transnationals and the exhortations to pull together with their exploiters as globalisation imposes its demands of sharply stepped up competition, the workers are also being subject to the whole thrust of the anti-social offensive in terms of its effect in the privatisation and PFI-type policies of such enterprises as the railways and the Post Office. Their consciousness is being raised on the connection between globalisation and the demand for further increases in productivity and "rationalisations", the anti-social offensive against social programmes, and the government’s "Third Way" policies. They are beginning to correlate that these policies are aimed at attempting to ensure their compliance on the one hand with the moves to further put all aspects and elements of society in the service of paying the rich, and on putting a block on the other hand on their aspirations to go for socialism to solve society’s crises.

Accordingly, WDIE will, as one aspect of its coverage, be developing its focus on the workers’ struggles and on the political, ideological and other issues connected with these struggles. It will do so firstly by deepening its treatment of the alternative to the anti-social offensive, that is, the pro-social programme Stop Paying the Rich – Increase Investments in Social Programmes! and by encouraging discussion on this alternative from all its readers and for them to make their contributions in this respect. Secondly, it will widen its coverage of the workers’ struggles themselves and, as far as possible, give a comprehensive and overall picture of these struggles and their direction by simply reporting on what are the objective developments. The same is true for the struggles against the anti-social offensive, bringing out how the independent programme of the working class holds the solutions to the cuts in social programmes that are taking place. Workers’ Weekly will in particular develop its News in Brief in order to give an overall view of the various movements in the society. We will then review this coverage in two or three months’ time.

We will, as indicated, concentrate on the workers and their struggles, because once the workers break with the old and end their marginalisation, the march along the path of progress to a socialist Britain will very quickly be accomplished.

In this we also ask the participation of our readers in reporting to us without hesitation or reservation the struggles that they are involved with or become acquainted with, and as far as possible to solicit the views of the workers or the various sections of the people engaged in struggle or affected by the increasing globalisation and the stepped up anti-social offensive and their views on the alternative, beginning from the political programme that the Party is putting forward.

In this way, we will be able to give further life and content to our slogan Improve the Content, Extend the Readership!

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Oppose the Move of the US Navy to Extend their Bombing from Vieques to Scotland!

It has recently been reported that the US navy is planning to use Cape Wrath in Caithness at the north western tip of Scotland as an area for its firing practice. This move comes as the people of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques are stepping up their opposition to the continued use of Vieques as an arms dump and a target for bombing manoeuvres by the US navy. It is also the new site for the US Southern Command.

The US navy was forced to admit that it had, in violation of federal rules, fired ammunition tipped with Depleted Uranium. A further investigation by the Puerto Rican government uncovered more accidents at the training ground. In April 1999, an F-18 jet dropped two bombs off target and killed a civilian guard.

Cape Wrath is at present a designated Ministry of Defence bombing area. A spokesman for the MoD said that allowing the US to bombard Cape Wrath was part of the routine co-operation between NATO member states.

The movement of opposition, including civil disobedience, to the US navy’s abuse of Vieques has grown very strongly, and is closely linked with the struggle to gain Puerto Rico’s independence from the US. It is at present a "commonwealth" – neither a US state nor an independent country – and the struggle for self-determination of the Puerto Rican people has been a long one but is gaining a great momentum.

One of the leading activists in opposing the bombing of Vieques has been Alberto de Jesus, who has led Puerto Rican fishermen in their famous kayaks on to Vieques. Mr de Jesus now plans to travel to Scotland to continue his fight against the US navy. It is reported that he is liasing with Scottish environmental groups, who have long opposed the use of this very beautiful area of Scotland as a bombing range. They will try to stop the US ships, led by the USS Dwight D Eisenhower, from using Cape Wrath for firing manoeuvres.

WDIE joins with all those who are taking action to stop the US navy, both in Vieques and in Scotland. We condemn the British government not only for its collaboration with the US in the aggressive NATO alliance, but in its whole militarist stance in the world.

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Letter to the Editor

Government Even Has Targets on Suicides!

Dear Editor

I was amazed the other day when I came across the news that as well as having targets on reducing waiting lists and all the targets to do with education which apparently it now needs "super-heads" to bring about, it also has targets on reducing suicide rates. I read that the government’s aim is to cut the numbers of people committing suicide by 33 per cent. It appears that there is a league table of health authorities which, among other things, measures how well they perform in reducing suicide rates, as measured by the Quality and Performance indicators in the NHS.

How much further, I thought, can the government go in denying its and society’s responsibility for the social well-being and welfare of human beings, and off-loading the responsibility onto some external and long-suffering agency.

Professionals in all social fields seem to recognise this – in the health service, in education, in social services, you name it – but how to get the government to recognise their responsibility!

A couple of days ago, Tony Blair faced patients, medical professionals, GPS, at St Thomas’ hospital and answered all their complaints – some of which were polite, some not so polite – with the refrain that "it all takes time", coupled with, "I’m sure you’ll agree, it is a problem of resources". His audience were not so convinced that, given time and resources, the situation would much improve. As time moves on and resources remain scarce, it will still be a matter of "taking time" and a "problem of resources". I particularly pricked my ears up when in talking about the problem of resources he mentioned that, of course, the government first has a problem of meeting interest payments on the national debt. The demand for a moratorium on the national debt, I thought, is not just a slogan, a phrase!

The same thing is true of suicides. Not so much that it is a matter of resources, though clearly the more resources invested in the mental health services the better. But that society cannot be let off the hook. In a news report, I saw this quote from Professor Tom Burns, who is clinical director of general adult services at South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust. "Suicide is clinically part of reality and because the risk of suicide seems to be higher among mental health patients there is clearly an important role for mental health services to play. But it must be remembered that social factors are hugely important. The isolation created by the social upheaval and rapid change that is an intrinsic part of life in London increases the number of people committing suicide, and other issues resulting from social isolation such as diet, alcohol/drug intake, employment and education, need to be addressed." It was particularly shocking to read that the highest rate of suicide seems to be among the over-85 age group, as elderly people are so prone to depression.

I seem to remember (I may be mistaken) that Tony Blair quite recently repudiated what Margaret Thatcher said that "there is no such thing as society, only individuals and family values". (Certainly Glenda Jackson had repudiated this view in her campaign to be nominated as Labour Party candidate for London mayor.) But if so, this must be just in words. Otherwise, how could the Labour government put responsibility on others in meeting "targets" for bringing down suicide rates?

South London Reader

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