Tag Archive: union


VOAG-Logo-(Ukraine)Ukraine – The Role Of Dmytro Yarosh, Leader Of The Fascist Paramilitary, Right Sector

By Peter Schwarz , WSWS
On April 22, Spiegel Online published an interview with Dmytro Yarosh, leader of the Ukrainian fascist paramilitary organisation Right Sector. This interview confirms that the fascists not only played a decisive role in the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych on 22 February, but that also play a significant role in the current transitional government headed by Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Yarosh explained that the armed wing of his organisation had not been disbanded, but legalised. “Our battalions are part of the new territorial defence. We have close contact with the intelligence services, and the general staff. We actually have good relations with everyone, apart from the police,” he told Spiegel Online.yarushYarosh is closely connected to Andriy Parubiy, who commanded the self-defence forces during the protests on Independence Square (the Maidan). Parubiy was the co-founder of the fascist Ukrainian Social National Party, the predecessor of Svoboda. He is now a leading member of the Fatherland Party of Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, and heads Ukraine’s security and defence council. Yarosh was originally supposed to have been his deputy, but rejected the offer in order to maintain his freedom to manoeuvre against the government.

In the interview, he made clear that Right Sector does not accept the authority of the current government, nor would it accept a future elected government. “Our revolution will only be completed when we have totally renewed the state,” he stated.

His goals are clearly of a fascist character. His choice of words was similar to those of the Nazis, whose terror regime he described as a “government of national revolution.”

Asked by Spiegel Online about his motives, Yarosh answered, “I am a Ukrainian nationalist. My goal is a strong state.” He described liberalism as “a form of totalitarianism.” On the EU, he criticised its alleged “anti-Christian orientation.”

“We oppose the destruction of the traditional family, and are against same-sex marriage.” By contrast he supported the EU’s social and economic policies, calling for tax cuts to support the middle classes and foreign investment.

In his militarist work “Nation and Revolution,” Yarosh expressed himself even more explicitly, as Spiegel Online pointed out. In it, he openly opposes parliamentary democracy and advocated an ethnically-based nationalism. He intends to spread “the nationalist ideology throughout the entire territory of our state,” “de-russify” eastern Ukraine, and ensure that the native people have the leading role in the state.

Yarosh no longer appears in a military uniform. He is a candidate for the upcoming presidential election and now wears a suit and tie. In his interview with Spiegel Online, he sought to downplay his anti-Semitic beliefs, which could prove embarrassing for the Western supporters of the new regime in Kiev.

The interview with Yarosh—and the fact that he was provided a political platform by Spiegel Onlin—shows the thoroughly reactionary nature of the forces Western powers relied upon to force regime change in Kiev and provoke a confrontation with Russia. In February, the armed provocateurs of Right Sector played a key role in escalating the conflict with security forces, leading to the loss of hundreds of lives and the overthrow of the elected president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Meanwhile, there are reports indicating that western cooperation with Right Sector goes back some time. According to a report in the Polish weekly Nie (“No”), published by 80-year-old journalist Jerzy Urban, the Polish Foreign Minister Radoslav Sikorski invited 86 members of Right Sector to an intensive, four-week training course at the Police Training Centre Legionowo near Warsaw last September.

The fascists were trained in crowd management, person recognition, combat tactics, command skills, behaviour in crisis situations, protection against gases used by police, erecting barricades, and especially shooting, including the handling of sniper rifles. The training was officially described as “student exchange.”

The visit took place a full two months before the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an Association Agreement with the EU on 21 November—the event that triggered the Maidan protests. If the report in Nie is true, it shows that the events leading up to the regime change in Kiev were a carefully planned provocation.

The Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski has close links to ruling circles of the USA. He is married to the right-wing American author Anne Applebaum and was director of the Atlantic Initiative at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, starting in 2002.

On February 21, Sikorski together with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, negotiated the agreement between President Yanukovych and the Ukrainian opposition, which was then sabotaged within the space of a few hours by the Right Sector and other armed groups. If Sikorski maintained close links to the Right Sector then he must have known of or possibly planned the provocation with the fascists.Voag-Logo-catapult2

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SF Logo2Unconditional Support to the Union Borotba! Motion to Brent and Harrow Labour Representation Committee From Gerry Downing, Socialist Fight

Gerry Downing, Socialist Fight.
Brent and Harrow LRC condemns the illegal coup that overthrew the democratic elected President Yanukovich which was funded by the US to the tune of $5 Billion and implemented by a mob led by the far right and neo-fascists, and has resulted in a government where Neo-Nazis are in control of the Armed Forces, National Security, Economy, Justice and Education. (Global Research, March 02, 2014). According to the New York Times, “The United States and the European Union have embraced the revolution here as another flowering of democracy, a blow to authoritarianism and kleptocracy in the former Soviet space.”. See The U.S. has Installed a Neo-Nazi Government in Ukraine, By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, March 02, 2014,

In this situation the organisations of the working class in the Ukraine are under violent assault by these neo-Nazi thugs, particularly in the East, where the big workers organisations are concentrated in the heavy industry. We therefore give our unconditional support to those forces that are fighting heroically against this mortal threat to their organisations and indeed to their very lives.

We therefore pledge out solidarity with the Union Borotba, which is leading that struggle. The press has reported severe state oppression allied to the armed marauding gangs of fascist thugs who are now spreading terror in East Ukraine. Leading members of Borotba have been arrested; “On the morning of April 1, Ukrainian Security Forces (SBU) agents raided the apartment of Odessa, Ukraine, (Borotba) anti-fascist leader Alexei Albu with a warrant authorizing them to search for lists of activists and for weapons… On the eve of the raid, the local “Euromaidan” movement — supporters of the pro-Western, fascist-dominated junta in Kiev — held a rally outside police headquarters demanding the arrest of Albu and other prominent anti-fascists.

“The Euromaidan nationalists openly demand that the special services subject us to violence,” Albu said. “This shows how repressive and anti-democratic in its essence the Euromaidan movement and the Kiev regime truly are.” Albu was not staying in the apartment and is safe — for now.

See Ukraine: Coup regime raids home of Odessa anti-fascist leader, By Greg Butterfield, http://www.workers.org/articles/2014/04/01/ukraine-coup-regime-raids-home-odessa-anti-fascist-leader/

We therefore call on the LRC nationally to give its unconditional support to the Union Borotba and to campaign in the Labour party wards, GCs and at every level for this.

Proposed by Gerry Downing:

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Information on Borotba from their website:
(“Borotba” means “Struggle”) and was founded in May 2011 by several Ukrainian political groups, in particular: “The Organization of Marxists” (Ukraine); former members of “the Leninist Communist Youth Union of Ukraine” (youth organization of the Ukrainian Communist Party); members of  the Ukranian “Youth Against Capitalism” movement; “All-Ukrainian union of workers”; and the Ukranian “Che Guevara Youth Association”; as well as other organizations and individual activists.

Union “Borotba” has chosen non-parliamentary methods of political struggle. “In terms of class polarization and concentration of wealth, democratic rights and institutions are transformed into the force to keep all the power in the capitalists’ hands. However, “Borotba” members will participate in the elections to promote the program of social revolution.

In 2012 “Borotba” Union has started a broad campaign against increasing right-wing sentiments in Ukraine in particular against neo-Nazi party ”Svoboda”. Now “Borotba” is the leader of the Anti-Fascist movement in Ukraine. Besides street actions and demonstrations activists of the “Borotba” Union participate in the network of social cinema clubs and festivals of Anti-Fascist movies. They also publish and distribute an Anti-Fascist newspaper.

Regional organizations of “Borotba” are making efforts to establish contacts with workers and independent trade unions all over the country. They support workers in their struggle against liquidations and reorganizations of their enterprises. The organization is also involved in social and political campaigns. For example, against the adoption of the new Labor Code and Educational Law; student protests against the neo-liberal project of the Housing Code “Against Housing Slavery! Against capitalism!”; against tariffs; for the social rights of workers, and for women rights.

In 2011 and 2012 “Borotba” members participated in the alternative May Day demonstration in Kiev together with trade unions and left-wing radical youth organizations. And has started international solidarity campaigns with Cuba, demanding freedom for The Cuban Five; and campaigns of solidarity with the Palestine and Venezuelan revolutions.

The Draft Manifest of the Organization declares: Union “Borotba” stands for Revolutionary Marxism. The Manifesto also states that the organization will support principles of Anti-Capitalism, Internationalism, Anti-Fascism, Political radicalism and Gender equality.Revolution Banner

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

voice of anti-capitalismModern Day Slavery In Qatar: Workers Paid Less Than 60p An Hour – The VOAG Investigates

The VOAG has been aware of the issue of foreign workers in Qatar for some time. RT, Press TV, and Aljazeera, as well as Amnesty International have made documentaries on the issue, and the VOAG has received a variety of articles on the subject. foreign workers mainly from India, Pakistan and other developing countries are encouraged to go to Qatar to work in the construction industry. Once there they are stripped of their passports and forced to work for very little money, and in some cases, for free.

UCATT, the British construction union recently went to Qatar on a “fact-finding mission” to investigate for them selves, and spoke to the VOAG of their results. UCATT now plan to put further pressure on the Hukoomi – Qatar Government Portal and British based companies working in the country. The plight of workers will become increasingly high-profile, as construction is now beginning for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.ucattUCATT met workers who were being paid less than £0.60 pence an hour and who were being paid a little over £50 a week, while being expected to work excessive hours, 6 days a week in temperatures up to 55 degrees in the summer. The levels of poverty pay are especially stark given that Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

The 2 million construction workers in Qatar work under the kafala system which means they are bonded labour. The workers have their passports confiscated and cannot leave the country without their employer’s permission. For many workers this means that they cannot return home for at least two years. The workers also have to pay up to a thousand pounds each before they are allowed to work in Qatar, which are often financed through loans at very high interest rates. Often workers do not receive the wages owed to them. During the mission UCATT met workers who had not been paid for five months.

UCATT also visited the accommodation provided for many of the workers and saw how workers live in abject squalor. UCATT met a group of nine workers who were expected to live in one tiny room measuring 10 square metres. Welfare facilities were entirely inadequate with just five poorly maintained toilets provided for 200 workers. The facilities for workers to prepare food were also atrocious. Workers report there is often no running water and they are forced to wash in sea water.

Steve Murphy, General Secretary of UCATT, said: “The treatment of migrant construction workers in Qatar is appalling. If animals were being treated in this way in Britain there would be a national outcry. The fact that this is happening overseas means that many companies are prepared to look the other way in the pursuit of profits.CONSTRUCTION WORKERHundreds of migrant construction workers die in Qatar every year. In the last two years 500 Indian workers have died. Last year 195 Nepalese deaths were recorded 123 of these were recorded as being due to cardiac arrest. UCATT learnt that deceased workers do not receive a post mortem and if the death was recorded as natural causes then no compensation was paid. Mr Murphy added: “The way that migrant workers are treated in Qatar demonstrates that those in power consider their lives to be cheap and expendable.”

The fact finding mission to Qatar was jointly organised with Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) the international federation of construction unions.

Reporting on the preparations for the 2022 World Cup, an RT (Russia Today news channel) investigation discovered foreign construction workers “toiling in terrible conditions and having received no salaries for months”, and their “passports confiscated by employers”.

One of the men interviewed worked for 12 years as an accommodation specialist, but, as Peter Giesel, the film maker, indicated to RT, “ironically, his accommodation itself doesn’t even have a fan.” The man hasn’t been getting his salary and bonuses for a number of years, and his main difficulty is to fight a case against his boss and his firm: the employer took his passport from him, and the 35-year-old worker hasn’t made the money necessary to return home, “the devilish circle”, as the RT report put it. Another group of guys – there were four of them – weren’t paid for seven months in a row and were trying to file a case when Giesel met them.

As the filmmaker explained, one of the main issues surrounding migrant workers is that they are employed under the so-called kafala system, which is “a law basically stating that every migrant worker that comes into Qatar has to find his own personal sponsor meaning his boss, the firm or corporation he’s working for.”

“And that sponsor has to take care of him legally and medically, but obviously, most of the sponsors take their passports away from the migrant workers. That puts maybe tens of thousands of them in a miserable situation. They can’t make any money to go home, so they’re trapped down there.”

Moreover, migrant employees can’t rely on outside forces such as their countries’ embassies, according to Giesel. “I had a chance to sneak into the Nepalese embassy and do my recordings down there. It seems to be some kind of chaos: the bureaucracy not only in the embassies, but also in the Qatari system is too overwhelming for those 1.4 million migrant workers to be treated fairly,” reported Giesel.

InjusticeThe VOAG has been concerned for a long time at the actions of PCS union members who work at Employment Centers. Many of the members of the Surrey United Anti-Capitalists – a local, independent,  left unity project, which the VOAG supports – have been unfairly treated, bullied and victimized by the staff. They have had their only source of income taken away from them on the whim of apparent union members who later go on strike and demand “working class unity and support”

The VOAG was pleased to read the article below, dealing with this very question on the Socialist Unity blog, and re-publishes it here.

 The role of PCS members in the bullying of benefit claimants

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are engaged in the widespread bullying and intimidation of benefit claimants in Job Centres up and down the country. The evidence can no longer be denied and the union’s leadership must now take steps to educate its members that solidarity is more than just a word on a leaflet during a PCS pay dispute, or else face the accusation of collaborating with the government’s vicious assault on the most economically vulnerable in society under the rubric of austerity.

The upsurge in the number of claimants having their benefits sanctioned for increasingly minor infractions correlates to the upsurge in the demand for the services of the nation’s food banks. This shocking revelation was contained in a report by MPs in January, the result of an investigation by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, which called for an independent review into the rules for sanctioning claimants to ensure that the rules are being applied “fairly and appropriately”.

Among its findings the report stated: “Evidence suggests that JCP staff have referred many claimants for a sanction inappropriately or in circumstances in which common sense would dictate that discretion should have been applied”.

The report continued: “Some witnesses were concerned that financial hardship caused by sanctioning was a significant factor in a recent rise in referrals to food aid. The report recommends that DWP take urgent steps to monitor the extent of financial hardship caused by sanctions”.

The majority of Jobcentre staff are members of the 270,000 strong PCS, the sixth largest trade union in the country, which represents thousands of Britain’s civil servants and public sector workers. The PCS has been a strong critic of the coalition’s austerity policies, making the case for an investment led recovery from recession and calling for mass opposition to spending cuts that have ravaged the public sector and been accompanied by a concerted campaign of demonization of the unemployed and economically vulnerable that is unparalleled in its viciousness. This only makes the role some of its members are playing in intensifying the hardship faced by the unemployed and people on out of work benefits even more deplorable.

It is unconscionable that any trade union would allow its members to engage in the wilful and systematic sanctioning of benefit claimants without offering any meaningful resistance. It flies in the face of the very principle of social solidarity that is the cornerstone of a movement founded on the understanding that the interests of working people – employed and unemployed – are intrinsically the same.

The human despair not to mention humiliation being inflicted on people in the nation’s Jobcentres is evidence that the Tory campaign of dividing working people section by section has borne fruit. It has reached the point where the oppressive atmosphere found in your average Jobcentre is on a par with the oppressive atmosphere associated with a district or sheriff court. Job seekers are not criminals and those sanctioning them so readily are not parole officers, yet you could be easily mistaken in thinking they are after spending just a few minutes in a Jobcentre anywhere in the country.

Enough is enough.
This culture of bullying, harassment, and intimidation against the unemployed must be confronted by the leadership of the leadership of the PCS as a matter of urgency. By no means are all PCS members working in Jobcentres guilty of this shameful practice – indeed many are low paid workers reliant on various benefits to survive themselves – but enough are involved in the practice to leave no doubt that we are talking about an institutional problem rather than the actions of a few rotten apples.

Many of those being sanctioned are being trapped due to mental health issues or language issues making them more vulnerable to violating the plethora of rules regarding the obligations they must fulfil when it comes to searching for work. Many are being sanctioned for turning up five minutes late to a scheduled appointment, regardless of the reason why. In some cases suicide has been the result.

You would hope that the leadership of the PCS would at least acknowledge the despair their members are inflicting on the most economically vulnerable people in society. You’d be wrong. In an article which appeared on the PCS website back in February, addressing the volume of criticism being levelled at the DWP over sanctioning, the union denied culpability in the process. On the contrary they assert in the article:

PCS believes our members do the best job they can in very difficult circumstances. Rather than face criticism, this work should be recognised and valued by management and they should start by ensuring a proper pay increase for DWP staff in 2014.

Any trade union member who allows him or herself to be used as an instrument to attack the poor and the unemployed is deserving of contempt. And any trade union leadership that fails to act to prevent it happening is reactionary.Voag-Logo-34

voice of anti-capitalismIs our meat fit to eat?

Just when last year’s horsemeat scandal was finally beginning to fade, Britain’s carnivores have now been hit with more bad news about meat. According to the union representing meat inspectors, diseased and dirty meat could end up on Britain’s dinner plates as a result of new legislation. Unison says that proposed law changes will reduce the ability of its members to inspect suspect meat and make sure diseased cuts don’t make the human food chain.

A spokesman for the union said that the new rules could mean meat that “repulses us” making it onto our dinner plates. “Most people do not know that there are a small group of meat inspectors and vets that keep them safe from harmful and repulsive additions to our sausages, Sunday roasts and beef pies,” she added.

It’s just the latest in a string of bad headlines about what, for many of us, is the best part of any meal. So, what are the health implications of producing, processing and eating meat, and is it time we thought about going veggie?

Diseased meat
What many of us don’t know is that millions of carcasses are thrown away every year before their meat can make it onto our plates. They may be carrying parasites such as tapeworm or come from animals infected with pneumonia, septicaemia, peritonitis and tumours.

Meat inspectors fear that, if the new rules come into force, more of that meat will end up in our stores and restaurants. But the health implications aren’t clear. Some of this meat might repulse us, but it won’t necessarily make us sick.

Chicken contaminated with faeces is another story, however. It’s the leading cause of campylobacter, the most common form of human food poisoning in the UK. There are 460,000 reported cases each year, 22,000 hospitalisations and 110 deaths. In the last two years nearly three million chickens contaminated with faeces were removed from the food chain.

The risk is still small, though. Thorough cooking kills campylobacter, and the bacteria is only found in a tiny percentage of chickens slaughtered each year.

Factory farming
But the health risks associated with meat don’t begin at the slaughterhouse. There is a convincing body of evidence to suggest that intensive farming methods which produce a large proportion of our meat are potentially harmful to human health.

Many human diseases have originated in farm animals. Scientists think tuberculosis and the common cold probably came to us from cattle, and influenza from ducks. But many experts think that diseases that may prove harmful to humans have more chance to evolve, and to evolve quickly, in intensively reared animals.

“In recent decades,” writes Dr Michael Greger, author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, “previously unknown diseases have surfaced at a pace unheard of in the recorded annals of medicine: more than 30 newly identified human pathogens in 30 years, most of them newly discovered zoonotic viruses.” (Zoonotic viruses are those that can be passed from animals to humans.)

“Factory farms represent the most significant change in the lives of animals in 10,000 years. This is not how animals were supposed to live.”

And it’s not just that new diseases develop more quickly. It’s also that we lose the ability to control old ones. Some scientists fear that antibiotic use in intensively reared farm animals – which is now tightly controlled in Europe but still widespread elsewhere – is leading to the rapid rise of antibiotic-resistant microbes.

Processing
The final link in the chain from farm to plate is processing. Some meat is not processed at all, of course – a juicy steak is a juicy steak – but a considerable amount is turned into sausages, bacon, burgers, pie filling and ready meals. One risk of processing is that we can’t always be sure where the meat in our burger originated, a problem highlighted by the horsemeat scandal.

But even when the meat is bona fide, the general medical consensus is that we should cut down on the processed stuff. According to a study of half a million people across Europe published last year, the biggest consumers of processed meats are 44% more likely to die prematurely from any cause than those who eat little of it.

But cut down to what? Bridget Benelam, senior nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) says: “For red and processed meat, the government guideline is to consume no more than an average of 70g per day. Some people in the UK do consume more than this and so need to reduce consumption, but, on average we are actually consuming about this amount so it’s not necessary for everyone who eats meat to cut down.”

Quit meat?
But others take a more hardline view, and say the health and environmental implications of meat production make it difficult to defend. So, should we be encouraged to quit meat altogether? Is a sausage the new cigarette? It seems that, even if we’re not going vegetarian, more of us are becoming concerned about our meat intake. In 2013, meat-free sales increased by 6.6% over the previous year, while Quorn products leapt by 20%.

Nevertheless, many experts don’t advise that we give up meat, just that we eat less and better cuts. “Meat can be rich in nutrients and national surveys suggest that meat and meat products provide 34% of our zinc intake, 28% vitamin A, 22% vitamin D and 17% iron so it does make a significant contribution to the diet,” says Benelam.

That can also mean eating free-range or at least RSPCA-approved meat. It can be a little more expensive, but eating better meat less often can make it more affordable. When even Richard Turner, executive chef of the famed steakhouse Hawksmoor, urges consumers to eat less but well-farmed meat, and treat meat as a luxury rather than a daily staple, maybe we should all sit up and take notice.Revolution-Enemy Is Profit

Grass Roots Rank and File Launch Conference.

Saturday 12 April 2014. 12pm
Comfort Inn, Opposite New St Station,

Station Street,

Birmingham. B5 4DY.

Following the successful meeting of the Grass Roots Left National Committee in Birmingham on 18 January the launch conference of the new Grass Roots Rank and File now looks to be on a far healthier basis than was feared when Socialist Fight supporters had been reduced to a minority of two in defence of the Constitution and Platform of the GRL as the basis for the new organisation at the AGM of 9 November. Between the two meetings the SWP had split at its December conference and the new organisation, now called the Revolutionary Socialists of the 21st Century, took the majority of the Unite the union faction who had supported Jerry Hicks for general secretary twice. Both the SWP and the SR21C attended the GRL NC and as they were now rivals they sought to accentuate their leftism. It seems now that the new joint Rank and File organisation will be open and democratic and be based on a platform and constitution at least similar to the old GRL one. Both Workers Power and Socialist Resistance had to reverse themselves and now say that standing on Jerry Hicks election points really was minimalist and not enough and they abandoned their charges of ultra leftism against SF. The SWP, of course, continues its opportunist tailending of all the other the TU bureaucracies as Laurence Humphries’s report on the Unite the Resistance conference on page 30 makes clear. In the meantime we hear that fusion discussions between Unite and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), whose Executive is dominated by the SP/CWI, are going to succeed because the government will withdraw check-off facilities from the PCS and so probably bankrupt it. The SP has already approached the United Left, the Unite bureaucracy’s mouthpiece, to ensure that they become ensconced as that bureaucracy’s footstools as well as for the RMT’s Bob Crow.grass-roots-RandF

National march to release the jailed minersMarch 12, 2014 is the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the National Miners Strike. Local strikes had began at several Yorkshire collieries over pit closures, when Arthur Scargill, the NUM Miners union leader formerly called a national strike, that was to last from March 12, 1984 to March 3, 1985.

Over the coming weeks the inter-web is going to be full of miners strike commentaries, obituaries and articles, so The VOAG thought it would get its post in early. By the time March 12 arrives we will all be sick of miners strike articles and reminiscences.

It seems superfluous to write anything about the miners strike. It is such a well known, momentous event in working class history, that even the generation which has grown up since the strike is well acquainted with it. However, the news of an upcoming Conference on the Miners Strike, “Still The Enemy Within”, to be held on March 8, has prompted The VOAG to mark the anniversary with a short post.Still The Enemy WithinThe Tory government claimed its intention was to close 20 pits with the loss of 20,000 jobs. When the strike began, Scargill said that the government had a long-term strategy to destroy the industry by closing over 70 pits. Not only did the Government deny this but Ian McGregor, the head of the Coal Board which managed the industry, wrote to every member of the NUM claiming Scargill was deceiving them, and that there were no plans to close any more pits than had already been announced. Cabinet Papers released this year indicate that McGregor did indeed wish to close over 90 pits.Miners SupportSupport for the miners brought together disparate radical groups across Britain, involving more people in a greater intensity of activity, over a lengthier period than any other campaign in the history of the labour movement. There were many violent incidents during the strike, the worst being clashes between striking miners and police at Orgreave. Police charged crowds on horseback with their batons and several people were seriously injured. Watch this documentary which tells some of the story of “The Battle Of Orgreave”

The miners and their families suffered great hardship during the strike, many relying on food parcels, soup kitchens and other donations. On 3 March 1985 NUM delegates voted to abandon the strike at a specially convened conference. Two days later the miners returned to work. After the strike the pit closure programme of the conservative Government continued rapidly. In 1984 there were 170 coal mines open in the UK, by 2004 only about 11 mines were still open. The strike was a terrible defeat for the miners and following the strike the coal industry and British trade union movement were never the same again.The Voag is everywhere

Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq
An analysis of the effect of economic sanctions on Iraq –
A film by John Pilger

A poll conducted by ComRes last year asked people in Britain how many Iraqis had been killed as a result of the 2003 invasion. A majority said that fewer than 10,000 had been killed: “a figure so shockingly low it was a profanity”, commented John Pilger, in an article in the Guardian this month.

John Pilger continued: “I compared this with scientific estimates of up to a million men, women and children who had died in the inferno lit by Britain and the US. In fact, academic estimates range from less than half a million to more than a million. John Tirman, the principal research scientist at the MIT Centre for International Studies, has examined all the credible estimates; he told me that an average figure suggests roughly 700,000. Tirman pointed out that this excluded deaths among the millions of displaced Iraqis, up to 20% of the population.

The VOAG reported in March 2010 on two studies exploring civilian deaths as a result of the invasion of Iraq. One study by Opinion Research Business, on behalf of  New Scientist estimated 1.2 million people had died. A second study conducted by Dr Burnham of Johns Hopkins University, on behalf of The Lancet, Organ of the British Medical Association, estimated that a million people had died as a result of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

These figures were complied in 2006, and updates in 2010 revised these figures to between 1.2 and 1.6 million deaths. With a pre-war population of 22.5 million, it means that as of 2010 one in nineteen Iraqis 1/19 has been murdered by the coalition. A further 20% of the population (One in five) have been made homeless. When General Franks, the US Comander of the Coalition was confronted with these figures he famously said: “We don’t do body counts”.

These death rates are based on statistical data. They are not confined to direct violent deaths, but all deaths; deaths through disease and loss of infrastructure for example. All ‘extra deaths’ over and above what the levels would have been, had there not been an invasion.

The “shock and awe” of 1993 and the subsequent occupation of Iraq was the extension of a murderous blockade imposed for 13 years by Britain and the US. Its results were suppressed by much of the mainstream media. Half a million Iraqi infants died as a result of sanctions, according to Unicef.; with children dying in hospitals, denied basic painkillers.

John Pilger’s article concluded: “Ten years later, in New York, I met the senior British official responsible for these “sanctions”. He is Carne Ross, once known in the UN as “Mr Iraq”. I read to him a statement he had made to a parliamentary select committee in 2007: “The weight of evidence clearly indicates that sanctions caused massive human suffering among ordinary Iraqis, particularly children. We, the US and UK governments, were the primary engineers and offenders of sanctions and were well aware of the evidence at the time but we largely ignored it and blamed it on the Saddam government, effectively denying the entire population the means to live.” I said to him: “That’s a shocking admission.”

“Yes, I agree,” he replied. “I feel ashamed about it …” He described how the Foreign Office manipulated a willing media. “We would control access to the foreign secretary as a form of reward to journalists. If they were critical, we would not give them the goodies of trips around the world. We would feed them factoids of sanitised intelligence, or we’d freeze them out.”

In the build-up to the 2003 invasion, according to studies by Cardiff University and Media Tenor, the BBC followed the Blair government’s line and lies, and restricted airtime to those opposing the invasion. When Andrew Gilligan famously presented a dissenting report on Today, he and the director general were crushed.

The truth about the criminal bloodbath in Iraq cannot be “countered” indefinitely. Neither can the truth about our support for the medievalists in Saudi Arabia, the nuclear-armed predators in Israel, the new military fascists in Egypt and the jihadist “liberators” of Syria, whose propaganda is now BBC news. There will be a reckoning – not just for the Blairs, Straws and Campbells, but for those paid to keep the record straight.


For More On Iraq:
Focus On Iraq: The War Continues (January 2011)
Latest On The Iraq Occupation (March 2010)
Civilian Death Toll In Iraq And Afghanistan (March 2010)The Voag

VOAG-Logo-(Brick)5-transparThe VOAG joined the Surrey United Anti-Capitalist Students Society (SUAC) For Freshers Fair 2013, at the University Of Surrey. 

One small step for the proletarian revolution, one giant leap for the Surrey United Anti-Capitalists, as the SUAC Students Society Romps home with 72 new members recruited at this years Surrey University Freshers Fair.

The VOAG salutes and congratulates those (they know who they are) who made this year’s Freshers Fair the most successful freshers fair ever. And not a swappy in sight!

The stool looked amazing, featuring picture boards of recent activities, a looping slide show, as well as various flyers. Props to all those that helped!    

SUAC is the only left group on campus. The SWP have tried in past years to start a student group, but to-date have always failed to get enough members to establish themselves. This year the SWP stayed a home.

Whilst the Lib-dems and Tories have abandoned Surrey University,  there is, on paper, a Labour Club. It keeps its head well low, never campaigns and doesn’t ever meet. The Labour Club appears out of thin air every Freshers Fair, and then hibernates until the next. 

The Green Party managed to arrange a stool, and sent two elderly, woolly jumper types. The VOAG ventured over to the lonely couple, but was scared off, fearful of frostbite, The Socialist Fight magazine the VOAG was carrying, alerted them that the VOAG was outside their target audience, and an icy chill deended on their stall.

The nearest thing to politics in the University of Surrey, outside the SUAC, is the Go Green Society. The VOAG went over to their Freshers Fair stall out of curiosity and to investigate if there were any issues of mutual interest that we might work together on.

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