Tag Archive: people


Diabled CampaignThe Black Triangle Campaign was founded to support the human rights of disabled people and to oppose the Government’s “Work Capability Assessments”, which re-classify sick and disabled people as “fit for work”.

 

The hidden welfare state that the U.K. government dares not speak of

The UK has two welfare states. There is one that is reported and endlessly discussed, and another, which is rarely mentioned. Whilst the first is suffering enormous cuts under the Tory/LD coalition, the other just keeps expanding.

Governments on the left and the right can always justify welfare cuts by pitting, for example, mobility scooters against needle exchanges, or the soft-play area in children’s playgrounds against an old people’s home. Who deserves it most, they say, students or cleaners? Old or young? But when we’re running not one, but two welfare states, that’s a totally fake scenario. The real choice is between playgrounds or gas rigs; between Meals on Wheels or The City of London Currency Speculators’ Maintenance Allowance.

There’s a connection – never mentioned – between, let’s say, Britain’s eight new deep-water gas rigs and its new food banks. The connection is that the $4.5 billion subsidy package being doled out to transnational gas corporations is a very big slice of the welfare pie. And to keep the gas transnationals on the benefits to which they are addicted, hungry humans have to queue for tinned food that is too close to its sell-by date to be kept on the shelves of supermarkets, many of which are themselves massive recipients of corporate welfare.

Not only does the UK pay out unemployment benefits less generous than Romania, Albania and the US, but the wages of the employed have simply not kept pace with productivity over the last 30 yrs. Tory Ideology is all about Handouts to the Wealthy paid for by the Poor.unemploymentGeorge Osborne has cut £18bn from benefits plus a further £81bn from public services in the name of unavoidable austerity, whilst at the same time providing huge subsidies, tax cuts and removing regulation for the hidden ‘welfare’ system that benefits the private sector.

No goods or services are directly returned to the government in exchange for these expenditures, although of course, politicians will argue that they’re stimulating the economy, helping struggling industries, creating jobs or funding important research but actually this is just a corporate welfare system.

The Cato Institute, for example, estimated that in the US, $93 billion were devoted to corporate welfare in 2002. This was about 5% of the federal budget, and nearly twice the amount spent on social welfare ie. feeding people, housing the homeless, raising children out of poverty etc.

There is no reason to think the situation is different in the UK. However, overall statistics for the UK corporate welfare budget are hard to discover, and the variety of different subsidies are staggering. Needless to say, the Tories focus their attention on fraud and waste in the social welfare budget.

Welfare fraud and waste is never far from the top of the UK’s news agenda – but the real figures often bear almost no resemblance to popular belief. The British public, for example, think around 27% of the welfare budget is lost of fraud, according to TUC research.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ latest data on fraud and error in the benefit system shows a very different reality: fraud exists, but at a far lower level than the public believes – and is outweighed by errors from claimants and officials alike. The DWP estimates £3.5bn has been overpaid due to errors and fraud in the system; 2.1 per cent of the overall benefit expenditure.

The corporate welfare budget arises from four main sources: Paying little or no tax – Tax havens; tax breaks; enjoying huge subsidies and the removal of employment and environmental protection regulations.

Tax Havens
 The UK’s 100 biggest public companies are running more than 8,000 subsidiaries or joint ventures in onshore and offshore tax havens, according to research. The figures, published by the charity Action Aid, show that only two of the companies listed on the UK’s FTSE 100 have no subsidiaries in tax havens – while companies such as Barclays and Tesco own hundreds. http://www.guardian.co.uk. The UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories constitute half of the world’s most frequently used tax havens.

Tax Breaks
Almost one in four of Britain’s biggest listed companies paid no corporation tax in this country last year – and almost half fail to disclose their tax payments to the UK at all, according to research by The Mail on Sunday.  According to the annual reports and accounts of all the companies in the FTSE 100, 47 companies gave no obvious figures for tax paid in Britain.  Of the 53 who did, 12 showed they paid no tax at all and, six actually received a tax credit.Tax AvoidTax Avoidance

 Treasury minister, David Gauke, admitted in reply to a parliamentary written question that only four employees of HMRC are working to capture 124 tax fugitives. The amount of uncollected tax rose again last year. A Labour MP pointed out that the four officials dedicated to the tax fugitives compares with the 450 HMRC staff involved in administering the withdrawal of child benefit from higher-rate taxpayers.

Subsidies
Currently, it is estimated that the government has already provided £43.5bn in various subsidies including the National Infrastructure Plan, the Equity Loan and Help to Buy schemes, the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and the Regional Growth Fund, with nothing to show for it. Far greater sums are in the pipeline, up to £310bn.

Meanwhile supermarkets get an enormous subsidy to help with one of their major overheads, staffing costs. This is because many employees in these large and successful companies are paid only the minimum wage. And because the current minimum wage is not a living wage, nearly everyone on it has to claim tax credits to be able to make ends meet. Those tax credits are funded by the taxpayer. The supermarkets are effectively state subsidised industries.

In addition to the recent unprecedented public support for the financial sector The NEF (New Economics Foundation) identified at least three significant hidden subsidies:

* The ‘Too Big to Fail’ subsidy: The government now provides a public guarantee, effectively insurance against banks going bust. This gives banks a huge commercial advantage over other firms in a market system. It means banks are able to borrow money much more cheaply than if they were not ultimately underwritten by the public. Exchanges with leading auditors in front of the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs in January 2011 confirm this. A conservative analysis reveals that this hidden subsidy could be worth £30 billion annually. It means that bonuses to senior staff for ‘performance’ and dividends to institutional investors are at least in part a straight transfer from the taxpayer.
* The quantitative easing windfall subsidy: When it was decided that the economy needed more liquidity, the Bank of England pumped money in using the technique called ‘quantitative easing’. To meet various, and sometimes self-imposed, requirements, it did by purchasing government bonds through investment banks. Merely for being passive conduits for this ‘risk free’ arrangement the banks took a cut of every trade. Here nef analysts found that banks enjoyed a significant windfall, but that lack of transparency keeps the likely amount hidden.
* The ‘make the customer pay’ subsidy: Since the baking crisis of 2008, the banks have been increased the gap between what they have to pay to borrow money, and what they charge people to borrow from them. This is the so-called interest rate ‘spread’. This is because they can borow money from the Bank of England at virtually 0%. As it is, the taxpayer is subsidising the banks twice over: once through taxpayer funded public support to the banks, and secondly through paying much higher interest to borrow than the banks do. This hidden subsidy amounts to at least another £2.5 billion each year.Rebuild The Fourth International

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The Forestry Commission costs the public less than a packet of crisps a year.

“It is difficult to see how the role of the Forestry Commission could remain viable with its most lucrative forests removed from its control”.
Rhoda Grant, MSP rural development spokesperson.

In a report in Sunday’s LabourNet Newsletter,  David Tilley of the Public and Commercial Services union writes: The Forestry Commission, the public body responsible for managing the UK’s forests, costs less than the price of a packet of crisps a year for each person in England.

The value for money provided by the Forestry Commission, at less than 30p each every year, is highlighted as the government prepares to sell off forests with a ’consultation’ expected to be launched today (27 January).

The union, which represents 900 staff at the commission, says the government should keep the whole of the English public forests in public ownership and publicly run.

The Forestry Commission currently runs multipurpose forests – visited by 40 million people a year – providing economic, social and environmental benefits, as required by internationally recognised principles for good forest management.

Public ownership ensures the commission carries out a wide range of functions that the union does not believe can be provided by the private and voluntary sectors.

In 2009 the commission conducted a detailed study of the long-term role of public forests that concluded public ownership was essential in supporting the forestry estate.

Private sector owners would inevitably want to make a profit and would be likely to cut down swathes of forests, restrict public access and facilities, and would not provide the same level of support for environmental objectives.

With charities having to rely on fundraising, as well as support from taxpayer-funded grants, the union does not believe there are any savings to the exchequer from such a transfer.

In a recent YouGov poll for campaign group 38 Degrees, 84% of the public said they did not want their forests sold for private profit, and more than 200, 000 people have signed a petition to oppose the sell-off.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our public forests are extremely important for the environment, for wildlife and to help solve problems such as climate change. The government is putting all this at risk with a dangerous ideological plan to sell them off to the highest bidder.

“While the voluntary sector does a lot of good work in our forests, we do not believe volunteers can replace experienced staff and forest managers. With the Forestry Commission providing such good value for money the alternative is clear, and the government should scrap its plans to allow big businesses to profit from our natural environment.“

The nearest forests to Guildford that will be sold off under the governments proposals are Blackdown Forest near Haslemere and  Holt Forest near Farnham. 

Ministers plan huge sell-off of Britain’s forests https://suacs.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/guildford-against-fees-and-cuts-7/

Holt Forest near Farnham may be sold off
https://suacs.wordpress.com/?s=forest
Visit Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page for details of the TUC demonstration, March 26th. Subsidised travel is available from Guildford.

Experts demand inquest into David Kelly death.

Back in August a group of ‘prominent experts’ demanded a full inquest into the death of government weapons inspector Dr David Kelly. They described the official cause of death, haemorrhage, as “extremely unlikely” in the light of evidence since made public.

The call came in a letter to The Times signed by eight senior figures, including a former coroner, Michael Powers, a former deputy coroner, Margaret Bloom, and Julian Bion, a professor of intensive care medicine.

The scientist was found dead in woods near his Oxfordshire home in 2003 after he was exposed as the source of a BBC story disclosing anger within the intelligence service over use of Iraq arms data. Evidence has since shown that it was the government that leaked Dr Kelly’s name as the source in an attempt to smear him.

Mr Andrew Gilligan, on the BBC Today programme, 29 May 2003, reported Dr Kelly’s allegations that the Government ‘probably’ knew their claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed within 45 minutes was incorrect, but decided to put it in its dossier anyway- and secondly, that 10 Downing Street ordered the dossier to be ‘sexed up”.

On 1st June 2003 the Mail on Sunday published an article written by Mr Gilligan describing his discussion with Dr Kelly, an ‘unknown source’ at this time. The article stated that his source said: “The Government’s dossier on Iraq’s WMD was transformed the week before publication”. “I asked him how this transformation happened. The answer was a single word ‘Campbell”.  Alastair Campbell has publically called these allegations lies.

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee announced on 3rd June 2003 that it would hold an inquiry into the decision to go to war in Iraq. The allegations reported by Mr Gilligan were one of the reasons why the FAC decided to hold its inquiry.

There are however doubts as to weather Dr Kelly was indeed the source of Mr Gilligan’s story. To-date Mr Gilligan has never confirmed or denied his source was Dr Kelly. On 30th June, Dr Kelly wrote a lengthy letter to Dr Wells, his line manager at the MoD. He stated that he had met Mr Gilligan on 22nd May, but that he was convinced he was not Mr Gilligan’s primary source of information.

Dr David Kelly

A decision was taken at a meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday 8th July, to issue a statement that an un-named civil servant had come forward to say that he had met Mr Gilligan on 22nd May, a week before his broadcast.

On the evening of 8th July the BBC issued a press statement referring to the MoD’s statement. The BBC said that the description of the individual contained in the MoD statement did not match Mr Gilligan’s source.

The press officers in the MoD were given a brief not to volunteer Dr Kelly’s name, but if the correct name were put to them by a journalist, it should be confirmed. At around 5.30pm, the Financial Times put Dr Kelly’s name to the Director of News at the MoD, and she confirmed it.

Hutton claims in his final report that Dr Kelly did not tell Gilligan “that the reason why the 45 minutes claim was not included in the original draft of the dossier was because it only came from one source, and the intelligence agencies thought it untrue”. Hutton claims this was Gilligan’s invention and that it was unfounded.

The final report by Hutton, published 28th January 2004, points to evidence submitted by Donald Anderson MP and Mr Andrew Mackinlay MP, of the Foreign Affairs Committee. “Anderson said that after the Committee -who were about to publish a report on their Iraq inquiry- learned of the MoD statement of 8th July, that a civil servant had come forward to say that he had met Mr Gilligan, there was a meeting of the FAC to decide whether it should reopen its inquiry in to the Iraq War and call Dr Kelly to give evidence.

The meeting decided that “fundamental to our report had been the question whether the politicians had overborne the intelligence community in respect of the information. Our views on this question might well be fundamentally overturned as a result of meeting the person who may have been Gilligan’s source, and therefore it would look odd if we did not seek to clarify the position.”  Mackinley states that he considered it the duty of the government to have immediately informed the FAC that a civil servant had stepped forward claiming to be Gilligan’s source.

The government learned of it on 30th June, but didn’t inform the FAC, who only heard of it once the MOD had issued its press statement on July 8th. Mackinley expressed the view of the FAC that the government “deliberately stalled, hoping the FAC report would be published before they had learnt that Gilligan’s source had come forward. It was designed to avoid him coming before the FAC’s Iraq inquiry.

The BBC issued a statement on the evening of 8th July that the source was not Dr Kelly, but “one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up that dossier” as stated by Mr Gilligan in his broadcast on 29th May – “nor was it a source within the intelligence service as stated by John Humphrys on the Today Programme,” said the statement.

David Kelly (if he was the real source) claimed that Tony Blair’s press spokesman, Alastair Campbell “sexed up” his dossier on Iraq’s weapons capability, transforming it a week before it was published, to conclude Iraq had weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed within 45 minutes. Dr Kelly, the British UN weapons inspector, not only refuted these claims, but said he thought Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction what so ever.  

Dr Kelly stated prior to the war- in memos submitted as evidence to the inquiry in to his death- that the ‘45 minutes’ intelligence was based on one single unverified source. This source was an undergraduate’s thesis published on the internet. Dr Kelly said sarcastically, he knew of a source that claims it could be done in four minutes. The reality David Kelly said is that “reliable information was not obtainable and could not even be gained from detainees despite financial incentives”. Kelly further stated that “the sanctions in Iraq were working well. It was very hard to import things, and the Iraqi arms industry had been impeded”. He asserted in his memos that “there was no evidence of a WMD programme and a large weapons programme would be impossible to hide”.

The dossier was used by the British government as a pretext to invade Iraq. Studies by the British Medical Association, Havard University and University of Austin, Texas conducted between 2006 and 2007 agreed an estimated 1.2million to 1.8million people had died as a result of the illegal war – and still the casualties continue.

The inquest into Dr Kelly’s death was suspended before it could begin by the then Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer. The Lord Chancellor then used the Coroners Act to designate the Hutton Inquiry in to Dr Kelly’s death as ‘fulfilling the function of an inquest’ -so the inquest was never resumed. On the 5th August 2003, before the Hutton inquiry began, Hutton banned all broadcasting of its proceedings.

Just prior to the start of the inquiry, in a statement on the hutton-inquiry.org.uk web site, 23rd July 2003, Hutton said; “My terms of reference is this: To urgently conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of  Dr Kelly. I make it clear that it will be for me to decide, as I think right within my terms of reference, the matters which will be the subject of my investigation”.

In June 2010 The Mail on Sunday reported that Dr Kelly’s death certificate was officially registered before the Hutton inquiry ended and it was not properly completed. It was not signed by a doctor or coroner and does not state a place of death, as all death certificates should.

The Hutton report concluded “the principal cause of death was bleeding from incised wounds to his left wrist which Dr Kelly had inflicted on himself with the knife found beside his body”. But the letter sent to the Times in August, insists that the conclusion is ‘unsafe’. The signatories claim a severed ulnar artery, the wound found on Dr Kelly’s wrist, was unlikely to be life-threatening.
Dr Hunt, the post-mortem pathologist, claimed Kelly was suffering from ischaemic heart disease. “And had a toxic dose of Dextropropoxyphene, a dangerous drug in overdosage with direct effects on the heart”. According to Dr Hunt, Kelly also had a toxic dose of coproxamol present. Dr Hunt added, these ‘may or may not’ have played a part in his death.

On 1st July 2010, the Mail on Sunday reported that a female colleague of Dr Kelly’s had recently claimed, in a letter to the Attorney General, that the UN weapons inspector could not have committed suicide, as he was too weak to cut his own wrist. She said a hand and arm injury meant that the 59-year-old even ‘had difficulty cutting his own steak’. Miss Pedersen also said Dr Kelly had been suffering from a severe throat infection and had difficulty swallowing pills. She casts serious doubts in the letter that he could have swallowed 29 painkillers before slitting his left wrist. Therefore, she said, “he would have had to have been a contortionist to have killed himself by slashing his left wrist, as Lord Hutton concluded in 2004”. The letter continued: “The absence of a full coroner’s inquest into Dr Kelly’s death and perpetual secrecy meant it was crying out for further scrutiny”.

Miss Pedersen said in the letter that she had provided the Hutton enquiry with a witness statement that voiced these concerns, but her statement was not presented to the enquiry. Miss Pederson states in her letter that she also offered to testify at the enquiry, but that her testimony was refused. When she asked why it was refused, she was given no answer.

On 25th January 2010 it was reported in the Mail on Sunday that Hutton had secretly barred the release of medical records, post-mortem results, witness statements and unpublished evidence. The records will be kept under wraps for up to 70 years.

The normal rules on post-mortems allow close relatives and “properly interested persons” to apply to see a copy of the report and to “inspect” other documents. Hutton’s measure has overridden these rules, so the files will not be opened until all people are likely to be dead.

Hutton refused to speak to the Mail on Sunday about the ban, whilst a Ministry of Justice spokesman told them he was “unable to explain the legal basis for the order”. Such an order is totally unprecedented.

The ban and the existence of hidden, unpublished material – including witness statements not disclosed to the enquiry, all medical reports, the post-mortem findings of Dr Hunt and photographs of Dr Kelly’s body – only came to light a year after the conclusion of the enquiry in 2004.

The restrictions only came to light in a letter from the legal team of Oxfordshire County Council to a group of doctors who were challenging the Hutton verdict. The doctors claimed the artery is too small and difficult to access in cases of suicide and severing it could not have caused death.

Lord Hutton QC

Hutton is no stranger to controversy. He was the former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, presiding over an occupying force condemned internationally for human rights abuses.

Brian Hutton QC was the representative of the British MOD during the 1973 “Bloody Sunday” inquest. Members of the Parachute Battalion had opened fire on unarmed civilians attending a civil rights march in Derry. Fourteen people were killed and another fourteen shot and wounded.

The Londonderry City coroner, Major Hubert O’Neill, accused the British army of “sheer unadulterated murder”, adding there had been “no justification for the soldiers to open fire”. Addressing Major O’Neill at the inquest, Hutton said: “It is not for you or the jury to express such wide-ranging views, particularly when a most eminent judge has spent 20 days hearing evidence and come to a very different conclusion.” Hutton’s conclusion of the Bloody Sunday inquest has since been totally discredited and the British government has been forced to apologise for the actions of the British army.

In 1997 Brian Hutton featured in the case of David Shayler. Shayler, a former MI5 agent claimed in the Mail on Sunday that agents in the 1970s illegally tapped the telephone of Peter Mandelson, later to serve as Northern Ireland Secretary, and kept a file on Jack Straw who later became Foreign Secretary. David Shayler went on to expose an MI5 plot to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi.  

Lord Hutton, together with Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough and Lord Scott of Foscote unanimously agreed that it was “not in the public interest” to report on the illegal activities of MI5. Their ruling cleared the way for Shayler’s prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.

On the 11th of December 2003, as the Hutton Inquiry was nearing its climax. Hutton announced that he would retire as a Law Lord on the 11 January 2004, two weeks before his report was due to be sent to the printers.

The Hutton Report has failed to allay suspicions of foul play in Dr Kelly’s death and has been dismissed by many experts as a whitewash for clearing the Government of any culpability. Last year, a group of doctors, including former coroner, Dr Powers, compiled a 12 page medical dossier as part of their legal challenge to the Hutton verdict.

The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve has also indicated that he believes “the case could merit a further inquiry”. On the morning of July 17th 2003, Dr Kelly mysteriously told a friend by email that there were “many dark actors playing games”. In 2007 it was discovered, through a Freedom of Information request, that the blunt pruning knife he is said to have used to cut his wrist had no fingerprints on it.

Michael Howard, former Tory leader has joined the call for a full inquest. He told the Mail on Sunday on 15th August, “Recent evidence by the first police officer on the scene, together with new statements by doctors raise serious questions which should be considered”.

So; Who killed David Kelly? Well I’m buggered if I know. Anyone with a stake in perpetuating the public illusion that Iraq was in possession of WMDs would have a motive. It’s a very long list, one that concievably even includes the Iraqis themselves. It’s even posible- though on balance highly unlikely, that Dr David Kelly killed himself. I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with a Tory before, but “serious questions need to be answered”.

Since 2009 the Chilcot Inquiry, the most recent inquiry into the Iraq war has been drifting on. Dr Kelly’s name has scarcely been mentioned. Chilcot was quoted admitting he “did not want to touch the Kelly issue”.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war as an academic exercise, delving into some distant historical event in an attempt to understand what happened. But to many Iraqis, the inquiry is something else entirely. It is an inconsequential charade, a classic case of fiddling while Baghdad burns.

Last year Hans Blix, former chief UN weapons inspector, appeared before the inquiry. He told Chilcot there was no justification for war, because his inspectors had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction; and he had made it clear to the UN that he needed a few more months to finish his task.

However when Blix appeared before the UN Security Council in 2003, 11 days before the invasion, he failed to make a clear, unequivical stand against the war. It allowed Tony Blair to push on with plans to drag Britain into the war.

Like a lot of politicians with guilty consciences, Blix has thrown his weight behind justice and morality only after the fact. The problem is, the Iraq war is not some bygone event. When Blair misled parliament into passing a motion to disarm Iraq of its non-existent WMDs he started a chain of events that destroyed a country, and left millions dead, maimed, orphaned or widowed. Its horrific consequences are still being visited upon Iraqis – such as the mothers who are delivering deformed babies because of the chemical weapons used by the invading forces.

Meanwhile, the litany of repressive policies gets longer. It is illegal to be a member of a trade union, just as it was under Saddam. Paul Bremer, the US envoy who ruled Iraq after the invasion, revived Saddam’s infamous “decree 150” in 2004, effectively banning all public sector unions. Activists are now treated as if they were terrorists, with a government decree under the 2005 anti-terrorism act, allowing their assets to be siezed.

The regime has also brought terror-related charges against oil industry trade union leaders. The president of the Federation of Oil Unions, Hasan Juma’a, and several other union leaders have been charged with contacting the media, sabotaging the economy and high treason. Juma’a believes that the regime is trying to “liquidate” the unions while transferring Iraq’s oil wealth to the multinationals.

Last year, troops opened fire on the demonstrators protesting against elcticity restrictions and prices. The prime minister described them as “hooligans” and deployed troops in Baghdad to stop the protests – dubbed by Iraqis as the “electricity uprising”.

Last week Tony Blair was recalled to the Chilcot Inquiry, but whilst Chilcot rumbles on, there is palpable anger across Iraq against the regime’s policies and corruption. Baghdad has the biggest US embassy in the world, from which, many Iraqis believe, the US dictates important regime policies and deepens Iraqi political divisions in order to maintain its control of the country. US aims have changed since the invasion – America wants to steer Iraq’s political and economic direction, and use the country as a base against Iran – but most of the Iraqi people continue to bravely resist.

Focus On Iraq: The War Continues

For most people in Britain and the US, Iraq is already history. Afghanistan has long since taken the lion’s share of media attention, as the death toll of Nato troops rises inexorably. Controversy about Iraq is now almost entirely focused on the original decision to invade: what’s happening there in 2010 barely registers.

This view is being reinforced by the continuing Chilcot Inquiry in to the Iraq war, where Tony Blair was again called to give evidence last week. In August last year Obama declared that the occupation was over and he was bringing the troops back home on schedule.  For much of the British and American press, this was the real thing: headlines hailed the “end” of the war and reported “US troops to leave Iraq”.

The US isn’t leaving Iraq; it’s rebranding the occupation
Nothing could be further from the truth. The US hasn’t withdrawn from Iraq at all – it’s just rebranded the occupation. Just as George Bush’s war on terror was re-titled “overseas contingency operations” when Obama became president, US “combat operations” has been rebadged as “stability operations”.

But as Major General Stephen Lanza, the US military spokesman in Iraq, told the New York Times in August: “In practical terms, nothing will change”. After this month’s withdrawal, there will still be 50,000 US troops in 94 military bases, “advising” and training the Iraqi army, “providing security” and carrying out “counter-terrorism” missions. In US military speak, that covers pretty well everything they might want to do.

Granted, 50,000 is a major reduction on the numbers in Iraq a year ago. But what Obama once called “the dumb war” goes remorselessly on. In fact, violence has been increasing as the Iraqi political factions remain deadlocked in rows over the Green Zone and domestic policy. More civilians are being killed in Iraq than Afghanistan. According to the Iraqi government, last year saw worst figures for two years.

And even though US troops are rarely seen on the streets, they are still dying at a rate of six a month, their bases regularly shelled by resistance groups, while Iraqi troops and US-backed militias are being killed in far greater numbers. And al-Qaida – Bush’s gift to Iraq – is back in business across swaths of the country. Although hardly noticed in Britain, there are still 150 British troops in Iraq supporting US forces.

Meanwhile, the US government hasn’t just rebranded the occupation, it has privatised it. There are around 100,000 private contractors working for the occupying forces, of whom more than 11,000 are armed mercenaries, mostly “third country nationals”, typically from the developing world.

The US is now expanding their numbers, in what Jeremy Scahill – who helped expose the role of the notorious US security firm Blackwater – calls the “coming surge” of contractors in Iraq. Hillary Clinton wants to increase the number of military contractors working for the state department alone from 2,700 to 7,000, to be based in five “enduring presence posts” across Iraq.

The advantage of an outsourced occupation is clearly that someone other than US soldiers can do the dying to maintain control of Iraq. It also helps get round the commitment, made just before Bush left office, to pull all American troops out by the end of 2011. The other getout, widely expected on all sides, is a new Iraqi request for US troops to stay on – just as soon as a suitable government can be stitched together to make it.

What is abundantly clear is that the US, whose embassy in Baghdad is now the size of Vatican City, has no intention of letting go of Iraq any time soon. One reason for that can be found in the dozen 20-year contracts to run Iraq’s biggest oil fields that were handed out last year to foreign companies, including three of the Anglo-American oil majors that exploited Iraqi oil under British control before 1958.

The dubious legality of these deals has held back some US companies, but as Greg Muttitt, author of a book on the subject, argues, the prize for the US is bigger than the contracts themselves, which put 60% of Iraq’s reserves under long-term foreign corporate control. If output can be boosted as sharply as planned, the global oil price could be slashed and the grip of recalcitrant Opec states broken.

The horrific cost of the war to the Iraqi people, on the other hand, and the continuing fear and misery of daily life make a mockery of claims that the US surge of 2007 “worked” and that Iraq has come good after all.

It’s not only the hundreds of thousands of dead and 4 million refugees. After seven years of US (and British) occupation, tens of thousands are still tortured and imprisoned without trial, health and education has dramatically deteriorated, the position of women has gone horrifically backwards, trade unions are effectively banned, Baghdad is divided by 1,500 checkpoints and blast walls, electricity supplies have all but broken down and people pay with their lives for speaking out.

Even without the farce of last year’s elections, the banning and killing of candidates and subsequent political breakdown, to claim that “Iraq is a democracy” is grotesque. The Green Zone administration would collapse in short order without the protection of US troops and security contractors. No wonder the speculation among Iraqis and some US officials is of an eventual military takeover.

The Iraq war has been a historic political and strategic failure for the US. It was unable to impose a military solution, let alone turn the country into a beacon of western values or regional policeman. But by playing the sectarian and ethnic cards, it also prevented the emergence of a national resistance movement and a humiliating Vietnam-style pullout. The signs are it wants to create a new form of outsourced semi-colonial regime to maintain its grip on the country and region. The struggle to regain Iraq’s independence has only just begun.

Depleted Uranium
Meanwhile, it has become widely known that the UK used depleted uranium weapons during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. A UK defence official has reportedly admitted using the highly controversial ammunition. “UK forces used about 1.9 metric tons of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003,” UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox said in a written reply to the House of Commons last year.

It is alleged that a joint inquiry by Iraq’s environment, health and science ministries uncovered more than 40 sites across the war-torn country contaminated with high levels of radiation. The use of uranium ammunition is widely controversial because of potential long-term health effects. The US and UK have allegedly used up to 2,000 tons of such ammunition during the war.

In August last year, Labour Party MP Paul Flynn, speaking to Russia Today said: “The depleted uranium still causes serious health problems. “We know that in the first Iraq war depleted uranium was used in shells. It’s very likely it was used again,” Flynn said. “It’s used as ballast because of its density in shells. It’s not as radioactive as it might be, it’s uranium 238 where the gamma-radiation has been reduced. It’s not a weapon of mass destruction, but sadly it’s a weapon of eternal destruction because it turns into dust and gets into the water supply, into the air and it can of course give children cancer, and cause birth defects.”

Last year, findings of a study conducted by a group of researchers in London suggested the same. One of the authors of the report, British-Iraqi scientist Malak Hamdan told RT: “The study that we have conducted does actually prove that there are massive increases in cancer, a 38-fold increase in leukemia, 10-fold increase in breast cancer -and infant mortalities are also staggering,”.

Iraq’s Ministry for Human Rights is expected to file a lawsuit against Britain and the US over their use of depleted uranium bombs in Iraq and will seek compensation for the victims of these weapons.

Corruption & Repression
Sami Ramadani, a British Iraqi wrote in The Guardian, 28th July 2010: “The Iraqis who Blair and Bush glorified and brought to power through sham elections are bleeding the nation dry through corruption and the sell-off of Iraq’s resources to multinationals. Freedom and democracy is nowhere to be seen. Deploying the US-built Iraqi security forces against the people is common. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have drawn attention to the plight of thousands of prisoners, widespread use of torture, and both judicial and extra-judicial killings”.

“Meanwhile, the litany of repressive policies gets longer. It is illegal to be a member of a trade union, just as it was under Saddam. Paul Bremer, the US envoy who ruled Iraq after the invasion, revived Saddam’s infamous “decree 150” in 2004, effectively banning all public sector unions. Activists are now treated as if they were terrorists. Troops and police have raided the offices of workers’ unions across the country, following a government decree under the 2005 anti-terrorism act, to ban them and seize their assets”.

“Britain’s TUC has described the regime’s action as a “Saddam-style move”, and its general secretary Brendan Barber has written to the foreign secretary, William Hague, to help stop this “dangerous abuse of power”. The president of the Federation of Oil Unions, Hasan Juma’a, and several other union leaders have been charged with contacting the media, sabotaging the economy and high treason. Juma’a believes that the regime is trying to “liquidate” the unions while transferring Iraq’s oil wealth to the multinationals”.

Having auctioned Iraq’s oil wealth, the oil minister Hussain al-Shahristani was recently given the electricity portfolio after mass demonstrations against lack of electricity supplies and regime corruption. Troops opened fire on the demonstrators while the prime minister described them as “hooligans” and deployed troops in Baghdad to stop the protests – dubbed by Iraqis as the “electricity uprising” – spreading to the capital.

Missing Millions
Meanwhile last year, The US department of defence called in forensic accountants to help track $8.1bn – out of a total of  $9.1bn – in Iraq’s oil revenue entrusted to it after the fall of Baghdad, following an official audit that revealed the money was missing. The report was issued by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which had previously criticised poor book-keeping by senior officials throughout the last seven years.

Iraqi officials said they knew nothing about the missing billions and had no means to find where they had been spent. “We will speak to the oil ministry finance committee about this,” said a spokesman for Iraq’s oil minister.

The funds were to be used for the reconstruction of Iraq’s worn-out infrastructure which was to be a central plank of the US military’s achievement. The audit could not find any documentation to substantiate how the Pentagon spent $2.6bn. An additional $53bn has been allocated by Congress to rebuild Iraq and the audit committee is examining whether those funds can be accounted for.

Quantitative easing may lead to disaster

It’s November 2012 and Barack Obama is living out the last few weeks of his one-term presidency. History is being made for a second time: the first black commander in chief replaced by the first female holder of that exalted office after Sarah Palin’s victory.

After his defeat, Obama is asked when it all went wrong. Looking back, he says, the key moment was 3 November 2010, the day after mid-term elections went badly for the Democrats, when the Federal Reserve took the decision to pump an extra $600bn (£370bn) into the US economy by creating new electronic money.

The Fed was warned at the time that what it was doing was high-risk stuff and took no notice when the former Ronald Reagan staffer David Stockman said it was injecting high-grade monetary heroin into the financial system. Instead of accelerating the US economy’s recovery, the Fed created the bubble to end all bubbles. And when the bubble burst in late 2011, the game was up for Obama.

This, of course, is conjecture. Obama’s poll ratings remain reasonable despite the economy, and Democrats are confident moderate voters will be put off by the stridency of the Tea Party when they vote in the 2012 race for the White House.

And maybe Ben Bernanke has got his analysis right. Perhaps monthly injections of $75bn into the US economy are just what is needed to boost the money supply, to get credit flowing and to persuade companies to channel their cash mountains into investment. Bernanke’s worry is that growth and inflation are too low. Interest rates can go no lower, another stimulus package is a no-no given the Republican capture of the House of Representatives, so the only option is more quantitative easing (QE).

Actually, that’s not the case. The Fed could have sat tight to see whether the slowdown in growth in the second and third quarters of 2010 was temporary. Most of the economic news since the idea of more QE was first floated in August has been better than expected, if not exactly earth-shattering. Friday’s employment figures continued that trend. The Bank of England and the European Central Bank are adopting a suck-it-and-see approach, which doesn’t appear to be too bad a strategy.

Why? Well, consider the following factors. Firstly, the idea that the global economy is poised for an immediate double-dip recession is not born out by the statistics. Asia is booming, which is why India and Australia raised interest rates last week and why China is fretting about inflationary pressure. In part, that inflationary pressure has been caused by the first wave of quantitative easing, which simultaneously pushed down the value of the dollar, made the yields on US Treasury bonds less attractive and provided investors with ready money to speculate in other markets. Which is what they have done, driving up the price of oil, gold and industrial metals.

The falling dollar
QE2 will add to those upward pressures, and will also exacerbate the already serious global tensions over exchange rates. While highly critical of China’s manipulation of the yuan, the Fed is itself using QE to drive down the value of the dollar.

 America’s rivals are going to see their competitive position eroded by higher commodity prices and a higher exchange, unless they either implement their own QE programmes, impose capital controls or raise tariff barriers. It is little wonder that Pascal Lamy, the director-general of the World Trade Organisation, has been raising the spectre of a return to tit-for-tat protectionism. Nor are the signs especially good for a harmonious meeting of the G20 in South Korea next weekend.

An additional problem for Bernanke is that any success he has in pushing down the dollar will make it more difficult to revive consumer spending at home. A weaker currency means higher import prices, so Americans can expect to see their discretionary spending power eroded by dearer food and fuel prices.

At root, the US has two problems – one cyclical and one structural. The cyclical problem is that the country has just endured the first nationwide housing crash in its history. That has led to millions of families losing their homes and millions more feeling less wealthy than they were when prices were booming. QE2 does little to address that underlying problem.

America’s structural problem is that it has been in long-term industrial decline for the past 30 years and is in a state of denial about it. Countries succeed when they get the fundamentals right: they see the need for the whole population to be well-educated, not just an elite; they spend time and effort getting products right and making small but important incremental improvements; they make things that other nations want to buy.

Germany has understood that; the US has papered over the cracks by allowing debt to balloon and bubbles to inflate. Each bubble has had to be bigger than the last in order to get the growth back to something considered acceptable, which is why the US went into this crisis with debt-sodden consumers and over-extended banks.

These weak fundamentals explain why the impact of QE1 on the real economy was modest, and also why many economists are sceptical about whether a second, smaller dose will do any good either.

Two-speed economy
Indeed, the US bears the hallmarks of what Keynes described as a liquidity trap, the point where neither ultra-low bank rate nor quantitative easing can persuade consumers or businesses to part with their cash. Trying to use monetary policy in these circumstances, he said, was like pushing on a piece of string; a better idea would be for governments to do the investing themselves through public works schemes.

But this is not going to happen. Policy makers had a brief flirtation with Keynes back in the winter of 2008-09, but are now intent on cutting deficits and balancing budgets.

That, then, is how things stand. There is a two-speed global economy; there is upward pressure on commodity prices; there is growing friction over currencies; and there are policies being pursued that are likely to do more harm than good.

In an ideal world, the new dose of QE is the touch on the tiller the global economy needs to see it through choppy waters to the calm seas ahead. But this is far from an ideal world; the ship is wallowing in stormy seas, and each violent turn of the wheel makes her more unstable.

The nightmare scenario, therefore, is that the Fed creates the conditions for the deflation it dreads. It is creating money to pay off its debts. It is knowingly debauching the currency. And it is fanning the flames of protectionism. The danger is that higher inflation pricks the bubble in the bond market, leading to a collapse in the dollar. Financial markets then tumble, the banks are plunged into fresh crisis, confidence collapses, and activity nosedives.

It’s a rerun of 2008-09, in other words, only worse because deflation is a reality, fiscal policy is shunned and international co-operation has been replaced by mutual suspicion and perhaps even outright hostility.

For the time being, the mood is upbeat. Oil prices ended the week close to $90 a barrel; the dollar’s trade-weighted index hit a low for the year; capital flows into emerging markets surged; the premium for holding risky assets collapsed. This may sound like good news but it isn’t. It is the harbinger of the next crisis.

Seven Reasons Why Capitalism Can’t Recover Anytime Soon

By Shamus Cooke
Countercurrents.org

As the recession grinds on, politicians in most industrial countries have an incentive to make exaggerated claims about the supposed coming economic recovery. Some say the recession is over. Obama is in the group that claims we’re on “the road to recovery,” while other nations can only spot recovery “on the horizon.” Below are seven important social phenomena that point to a more realistic economic and political outlook.

1) Central Banks are Dumbfounded. The usual tricks that U.S. and European central banks use to avoid recessions are long-exhausted. Interest rates cannot get any lower. And because cheap money wasn’t working, the printing press was turned up a notch, into what the U.S. federal reserve calls quantitative easing — injecting hundreds of billions of dollars into the world economy, escalating an emerging trade war.

2) Trade War. For a global economy to grow, global cooperation is needed. But in a major recession all countries engage in a bitter struggle to dominate foreign markets so that their own corporations can export. These markets are won by devaluing currencies (accomplished in the U.S. by quantitative easing), installing protectionist measures (so that a nation’s corporations have monopoly dominance over the nation’s consumers), or by war (a risky but highly effective form of market domination).

3) Military War. Foreign war is a good symptom of economic decay. The domination of markets — every inch of them — become an issue of life and death importance. Wars have been unleashed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Pakistan. “Containing” economies like China and “opening” economies like Iran and North Korea become more urgent during a major recession, requiring brute force and creating further global instability in all realms of social life.

4) U.S. Economy at a Standstill. The most important consumer market in the world, the U.S. is a nation of nearly bankrupt consumers. Nearly thirty million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, while further job losses are certain, due to nearly every state’s budget deficit. The New York Times explains:

“Now states are bracing for more painful cuts, more layoffs, more tax increases, more battles with public employee unions, more requests to bail out cities. And in the long term, as cities and states try to keep up on their debts, the very nature of government could change as they have less money left over to pay for the services they have long provided.” (12-05-10)

5) Bailout Capitalism. First it was the banks and other corporations that needed bailing out, and now whole nations. Western nations bailed out their banks by falling into the massive debt that they are now drowning in. Greece and Ireland have been bailed out, with eyes shifting to Portugal, Spain, and Italy. The entire European Union is being called into question as the Euro takes a beating in the bailout spree. If the EU is dismantled, the shock waves will quickly reach other economies.

6) Bailout Repercussions. All western nations — including the U.S. and England — are grappling with their national debts. Rich bond investors are demanding that these countries drastically reduce their deficits, while also demanding that the deficits be reduced on the backs of working families, instead of rich investors. This is tearing the social fabric apart, as working and poor people see their social programs under attack. In Europe mass movements are erupting in France, Spain, Portugal, England, Greece, Ireland, Italy, etc. Social stability is a prerequisite for a recovered economy, but corporate politicians everywhere are asking much more than working people are willing to give.

7) The Far Right Emerges. To deal with working people more ruthlessly, the radical right is being unleashed. In normal times these bigots yell furiously but no one listens. But in times of economic crisis they’re given endless airtime on all major media outlets. The message of the far right promotes all the rottenness not yet eradicated by education: racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, violence, and a backward nationalism that fears all things “foreign.” These core beliefs effectively divide working people so that a concerted campaign against the corporate elite is harder to wage. Meanwhile, labor unions, progressives, and other working class organizations are instead targeted.

The above phenomena do not happen in a normal economic cycle of boom and bust. These symptoms point to a larger disease in the international economic system, a disease that cannot be cured by politicians who swear allegiance to this deteriorating system and to the wealthy elite who benefit from it. To ensure that the economic system is changed so that working people benefit, large-scale collective action is necessary, based on demands that unite the majority of working people: a massive job-creation program at the expense of Wall Street, no cuts to Social Security and Medicare, a moratorium on home foreclosures, passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, and so on. With the unions in the lead promoting these demands, working people could put up a real fight.
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Surrey’s unique Alice Holt Forest near Farnham may be sold off as part of the present Tory/LibDem coalition’s plans to sell off 748,000 hectares of forest currently in public ownership.

Surrey’s unique Alice Holt Forest near Farnham may be sold off as part of the present Tory/LibDem coalition’s plans to sell off 748,000 hectares of forest currently in public ownership.

Alice Holt is an ancient forest famous for its Oak trees that once supplied the timber for our navy. It offers opportunities to walk, cycle, picnic and study wild life. It is a focus for a whole range of activities focused around the resources the forest offers.

Now Jim Paice the Environment Minister has written to MPs outlining his wish to “explore new ownership patterns for state owned forests”. This is code for moving to sell off parts of our forestry estate possibly to foreign owners.

Labour believes that doing this would threaten the essential role in biodiversity Alice Holt and other woodland areas play in Surrey.

People in Surrey should be encouraged to support the growing opposition to this privatisation. This can be done by writing to the Minister Jim Paice or through via Save Britain’s Forests
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No Ifs No Buts No Education or Public Service Cuts!!

 Demonstrate Against The Cuts

 Saturday 11th December, 11.30am – Assemble Woking Railway Station

 Called By Save Our Services in Surrey.
With the participation of students and all local Trades Unions

People from all over Surrey are coming together to demonstrate against the cuts to education, the rise in university fees and the cuts to public services.

 It’s time we made our voices heard

 Here in Guildford, we want to use this demonstration to kick start a broad and democratic campaign against fees and cuts in the university and in the college- as well as the cuts to public services.

 Join the campaign: Guildford Against Fees And Cuts – Join the Facebook page for updates and information.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Guildford-Against-Fees-Cuts/167151436659040

 And Join us in Woking
Read Our Statement:
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/guildford-against-fees-andcuts-2.doc

Ministers are planning a massive sell-off of Britain’s Government-owned forests as they seek to save billions of pounds to help cut the deficit, Patrick Hennessy writes in the Sunday Telegraph.

Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, is expected to announce plans within days to dispose of about half of the 748,000 hectares of woodland overseen by the Forestry Commission by 2020. The controversial decision will pave the way for a huge expansion in the number of Centre Parcs-style holiday villages, golf courses, adventure sites and commercial logging operations throughout Britain as land is sold to private companies.

Legislation which currently governs the treatment of “ancient forests” such as the Forest of Dean and Sherwood Forest is likely to be changed giving private firms the right to cut down trees. Laws governing Britain’s forests were included in the Magna Carta of 1215, and some date back even earlier.

Conservation groups last night called on ministers to ensure that the public could still enjoy the landscape after the disposal, which will see some woodland areas given to community groups or charitable organisations. However, large amounts of forests will be sold as the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) seeks to make massive budget savings as demanded in last week’s Spending Review.

Whitehall sources said about a third of the land to be disposed of would be transferred to other ownership before the end of the period covered by the Spending Review, between 2011 and 2015, with the rest expected to go by 2020. A source close to the department said: “We are looking to energise our forests by bringing in fresh ideas and investment, and by putting conservation in the hands of local communities.”

 Unions vowed to fight the planned sell-off. Defra was one of the worst-hit Whitehall departments under the Spending Review, with Ms Spelman losing around 30 per cent of her current £2.9 billion annual budget by 2015.

The Forestry Commission, whose estate was valued in the 1990s at £2.5 billion, was a quango which was initially thought to be facing the axe as ministers drew up a list of arms-length bodies to be culled.  However, when the final list was published earlier this month it was officially earmarked: “Retain and substantially reform – details of reform will be set out by Defra later in the autumn as part of the Government’s strategic approach to forestry in England.”

A spokesman for the National Trust said: “Potentially this is an opportunity. It would depend on which 50 per cent of land they sold off, if it is valuable in terms of nature, conservation and landscape, or of high commercial value in terms of logging. “We will take a fairly pragmatic approach and look at each sale on a case by case basis, making sure the land goes to the appropriate organisations for the right sites, making sure the public can continue to enjoy the land.”

Mark Avery, conservation director for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said: “You can understand why this Government would think ‘why does the state need to be in charge of growing trees’, because there are lots of people who make a living from growing trees. But the Forestry Commission does more than just grow trees. A lot of the work is about looking after nature and landscapes.”

“We would be quite relaxed about the idea of some sales, but would be unrelaxed if the wrong bits were up for sale like the New Forest, Forest of Dean or Sherwood Forest, which are incredibly valuable for wildlife and shouldn’t be sold off.  We would look very carefully at what was planned. It would be possible to sell 50 per cent if it was done in the right way.”

A Defra spokesman said: “Details of the Government’s strategic approach to forestry will be set out later in the autumn. We will ensure our forests continue to play a full role in our efforts to combat climate change, protect the environment and enhance biodiversity, provide green space for access and recreation, alongside seeking opportunities to support modernisation and growth in the forestry sector.”

Allan MacKenzie, secretary of the Forestry Commission Trade Unions, said: “We will oppose any land sale. Once we’ve sold it, it never comes back. Once it is sold restrictions are placed on the land which means the public don’t get the same access to the land and facilities that are provided by the public forest estate. The current system means a vast amount of people can enjoy forests and feel ownership of them. It is an integral part of society.”

In 1992 John Major’s Conservative government – also looking to save money in a recession – drew up plans to privatise the Forestry Commission’s giant estate, which ranges from huge conifer plantations to small neighbourhood woodlands. John Gummer, then the Agriculture Minister, wrote to cabinet colleagues saying that he ‘wanted to raise money and get the forest estate out of the private sector’. Mr Major backed the sell- off which, it was hoped, would raise £1 billion. However it was later abandoned following a study by a group of senior civil servants, amid widespread public opposition.

Much forest is already being cut down. A Facebook environmentalist informs me. For example 6 out of 20 sq miles of Ashdown Forest near Forest Row, Sussex, because the EU designated it as heath land. And all over Britain, small areas of forest have been cut down. In St Albans for example- two years ago a naturally seeded oak forest was cut down because an EU directive said it was grassland. Those in the immediate vicinity were informed two days before that Fairview Homes, the owner would be clearing scrub!!! Up to 35 year old oaks were turned to sawdust.  They didn’t even make use of the wood.

SUAC says: the only way to stop this and all the government cuts is to destroy the coalition and bring down the government. Climbing up trees or individual protests may make us feel better, but will never be effective. 100,000 people brought down Thatcher in the 90’s. So we need mass action. That means all environmentalists, anarchists and socialists joining with the Trade Union movement and coming together in a Coalition Of Resistance. 200,000 people on the streets of London should do it -with the help of strike action. Is this possible?…Absolutely. France is regularly putting 300,000 on the streets of Paris – So yes we can do it here. We’ve no choice. Find your local anti-cuts group and join the Coalition Of Resistance.
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 The French NPA’s (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste)
perspectives on Britain

The SUAC- acting locally but thinking globally- looks across the channel to see how the French are responding to the attacks on their living standards and what the French make of the anti-cuts movement in Britain. 

Today, October 12, France will be protesting against austerity measures, pension cuts and the raising of the retirement age with open-ended strikes in public transport – and a one-day strike in schools.  They are protesting against plans to push back the legal retirement age from 60 to 62. The strikes will be followed by street protests on Saturday, October 16.  According to a survey by Le Parisien, 69 per cent of people support the strike. The last demos, on October 2, attracted three million people. The CGT union has also called an open-ended strike in the power sector, calling on workers to carry out power cuts targeting official buildings, but not households.

A short article was published a few days ago on the web site of the French NPA. (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste). It talks about the Con-Dem cuts and the NPA’s hope for a growing resistance here in Britain. 

Great-Britain. Resistance to the Budget Cuts
Saturday 7th October 

A campaign against government policy to make the masses pay the cost of the crisis has been put in place. The Conservative report into public finances will be revealed on 20th October. We can see that cuts of up to 25% will be a veritable massacre of public services, salaries, and conditions of work, the annihilation of which is the remains of union gains and the welfare state.

The government has already announced its targets: public-sector pensions, the right-to-strike, education, health and post, salaries and premiums. VAT was increased, and benefits cut. Committees led by Conservatives (Barnet, Suffolk) plan the extension of privatisation to the majority of services. 

The consequences will be dramatic. Without even including the decrease in salaries and allowances, or the increase in VAT, the Budget Cuts represent a loss of income of 4.9% per person, and even 11.2% for a single-parent family. Proportionally, women will be hardest hit by the cuts. According to a study by the House of Commons, they will bear three-quarters of the burden…

The massive bank deficit of 2008, which was guaranteed by public funds, is now transformed into a public deficit which they are asking us to pay! That which was “their crisis” has now become “our crisis”. The Conservative and Liberal-Democrat government is using the depth of the crisis to frighten people, and persuade them that there is no alternative to massive, immediate cuts, to prevent the collapse of society.

A realization is emerging. The number and size of public meetings against the budget cuts is increasing. There have been strikes on the underground in London, at Astra-Zeneca and Coca-Cola, as well as a large demonstration of fire-fighters.

The absence, since the elections, of any opposition to the cuts from New Labour or the TUC, explains why, until now, the level of resistance had remained quite weak. The executive of the TUC subscribed to this logic when they stated that “the deficit can and must be reduced, but over a longer period”. They even invited the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, to address the TUC congress.

But this congress has just agreed a vigorous campaign against the budget cuts, and to co-ordinate strikes at a local and national level. This constitues an encouragement to unions for local campaigns, and will give confidence to the rank-and-file for strike action.

The magnitude of the crisis demands radical solutions: nationalisations in response to closures of businesses or workplaces, the placing of the banks under democratic control, a limit on the wealth of the rich, a million green jobs to fight climate change. 

We need a united campaign, with a large support base, like that against the Poll Tax in 1990, or Stop the War. The French and Greek strikes and demonstrations can equally well serve us as a reference. 

The new coalition “Resistance Against the Cuts” (CoR) has rallied a large palette of Trade Union officials, left groups, left-personalities such as Tony Benn or Ken Loach. It’s aim is to provide a democratic national co-ordination of local groups and not to end up co-existing alongside already-established groups.

The important deadlines are set. The “Right To Work” campaign has called a demonstration at the Conservative Party Conference on the 3rd October. Demonstrations are planned for the 20th October, when the Comprehensive spending review will be announced.

The national conference of the Coalition of Resistance, the 27th November, will be the time to plan an escalation in power of the campaign. Next year the TUC has organised a national demonstration for the 26th March. It is a distant event, but, from now, in all the communities, and all the workplaces, we must carry the message: we won’t pay for this crisis, involve everyone in the resistance against cuts and privatisations.

So what are the French calling for at home?

Below we have translated communiqués from the main forces on the French left posted on their websites over the last few days. The NPA is calling for an open-ended general strike. The Front De Gauche (Left Front) offers a new electoral project, with plans to codify a ‘governmental programme’ next year. Whilst the Lutte Ouvriere (Workers Struggle) calls for the resistance to be stepped up.

NPA: One solution: Renewable general strike! 
Wednesday 6th October
On the 2nd of October, many new demonstrators marched in more than 200 towns across the country. The contingents were different to those of the 7th and 23rd of September.  Fewer workers from the large industries, and more workers from grades or jobs who cannot strike, or are not unionised, a larger public, and more youth.

More friendly, but just as determined. In fact, it represents a new widening of the mobilisation, representative of the rejection of Sarkozy’s politics by more than 70% of the population. But after this latest success, we must stop here. The government has not decided to retreat under the sole pressure of public opinion manifested in polls and demonstrations. The seventh law in ten years on immigration, the racist proposals of ministers and the agitation on the terrorist threat don’t permit the government to regain any legitimacy. 

We must therefore take a step forward in the demonstrations. There is no other solution to blocking this plan to destroy our pension plans than to stop the economic and social activity of the country. The government not only wants to inflict a defeat us over pensions to symbolise its 5th year in power, but to continue through attacks on social security, schools, free healthcare, what’s left of the 35-hour week, and by new attacks on civil liberties.

Many workers from all regions have understood the desire of the government to attack us on all fronts. This explains why many demonstrations have occurred without waiting for the national days of action. Thus, many thousands of anaesthetists demonstrated on Friday 1st October through the nice quarters of Paris, dockers from several ports are on strike not only for their jobs, but also because for them too, everything is linked to pensions. Hundreds of workers from Ford-Bordeaux disrupted celebrations at the World automobile fair by demonstrating to save their jobs inside the showroom. 

Certainly, workers and the union apparatus remain marked by the defeats and retreats of the last years. The last inter-union statement on the 4th October hides badly the refusal of the principal union federations to engage in confrontation with the government. But in the factories, the offices, the neighbourhoods, the schools, the hospitals… the attacks on conditions of work and living and the racist policies of the government is provoking anger and revolt. 

Everywhere we need to build and amplify the demonstrations, the strikes, walkouts, and stoppages. We must now not merely discuss the open-ended strike, but everywhere win mobilisations to this avenue. Opposing the Media, we must circulate information and make contacts sector by sector, town by town. 

Less than ever the development of the renewable strike must be from national guidelines or local spontaneity. If some firm steps have been taken in this direction (RATP), many other structures seem ready to engage with it (SNCF, Education, CGT Seine-Maritime, Bouches-du-Rhone et Paris, inter-union federations in Paris and many ‘local’ branches, CGT chemical federation, etc). 

The concerted action of unions and convinced militants, sincerely engaged in building the confrontation can change the balance of forces and force the government to retreat. Don’t wait for the 12th October, we won’t stop on the 12th. 

FRONT DE GAUCHE: The Left Front opens a new space. 
Saturday 30th September
The Left Front launched, during the fete de l’humanite, a process of elaboration of a “shared project” covering multiple local and national initiatives in order to forge an ambitious programme for our country and its place in the world, a programme which the Left Front intends to carry to the elections to come. 

This rentree is placed under a double cross: on one hand, a government policy continuously  antisocial, anti-liberties, xenophobic, which doesn’t hesitate to question even the very foundations of the Republic; on the other hand, important and militant citizen and social mobilisations. Every day that passes delegitimizes further Sarkozy’s headlong rush.  The demonstrations of the rentree – those of the 4th and 7th September – and their support in the country, shows that on the question of liberties and of equality of rights like the social plan, the politics of Sarkozy won’t get through!

The Right in power has plunged into a deep political crisis that reveals their collusion with the financial powers. We must block them from any further destruction of social and democratic rights.

It is this sense which the Left Front intends to give its presence on all the demonstrations and struggles currently under way. It will be on all the movements for unity called across France based on the repeal of the government pensions’ project or in the movements defending the liberties and principles in our constitution with regard to the defence of the rights of man and citizen. We call in particular to join the rallies called by the inter-union federations on 15th and 23rd September.

The fight against Sarkozy also necessitates the construction of a credible Left alternative  to policies entirely devoted to the interests of the MEDEF (French CBI).

This is why, since 2008, the Left Front has proposed another way to the “people of the left” which doesn’t lead to yet another of the accompanying variations of liberalism. It constitutes a dynamic opening which has the capacity to grow.

It is in this spirit that the Left Front reaffirms its wish to “jumpstart” the situation of the Left. It means to assemble in the country a new left majority on the basis of a government programme that ruptures with the dominant logic of a capitalist system and it’s productivist models, of which the current crisis only confirms the necessity of surpassing.

It is in this vision that today, 11th September during the fete de l’humanite, a process of elaboration of a “shared project” covering multiple local and national initiatives in order to forge an ambitious programme for our country and its place in the world, a programme which the Left Front intends to carry to the elections to come. 

This “workspace” the Left Front intends to throw open nationally as well as locally to political formations which share the objectives and desire to be associated with this new project, but also to all citizens, especially union activists and associations who are involved in the pursuit of a society that denies the upgrading of economic profitability of all human activity, to substitute the values of equality, solidarity and humanism which are the real heritage of the Left in this country.

We will, therefore, put forward a concrete method: We call for the multiplication of local initiatives, permitting the largest number of ordinary people to get involved as possible: local committees of the shared project, initiatives of election and rallying of important local activists, workshops in the neighbourhoods and workplaces.

In the course of this process, we will ensure that we merge the work of elaborating the Left Front, with the demands and requirements of the organisations and actors in the social and citizens’ movements; unionists, organised militants, intellectuals who are at the heart of the resistance to liberal policies.

We also propose the setting up of “Thematic Fronts” rallying the activists of difference sectors (e.g. health, education, art, economy) in order to work out proposals together, which are likely to permit a viable democratic re-appropriation of society’s issues.

More initiatives of public debate, of a national dimension, will also be organised. For now two initiatives have been announced for the coming months:– An initiative on the question of Europe, to propose an alternative which breaks with the logic of the Lisbon Treaty and austerity measures, put in place by the Liberal European governments.

The Standing Liaison Committee of the Left Front will offer soon the forms in which organizations that wish and all citizens who share the approach of the Left Front and its objectives can fully participate.

All follow-up tools necessary to this project will be largely to inform about local and national initiatives to be taken, to publicize the work and contributions to various ensuing exchanges and allow the widest participation. 

Finally a national meeting in 2011 will conclude this process by adopting a program of government that we will be fighting for in the upcoming political events.

 LUTTE OUVRIERE: Everyone on strike on 12th October and onwards. 
Saturday 9th October
Workers’ Struggle calls for a massive turnout in all the strikes and demonstrations on Tuesday 12th October. 

Only a unified movement, each time bigger and more determined, can impose retreats on the government, over pension reforms, but also over all measures of social regression which for years have aggravated the conditions and lives of the popular masses. Only a powerful start from the workers can compel those who govern us in the name of the bosses of big business and bankers, to renounce their attacks on the conditions of the working class. 

LO also calls on the youth to join the struggle, as the issues concern the future of all society. Therefore we must all be in the strikes and demonstrations on 12th October and beyond. It is time to demonstrate that the anger rumbles on, and an explosion threatens.

Many thanks to Workers Power for providing the translations.