Nato summit ramps up the threat of wider war

Posted on: June 30th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
world leaders from turkey, findland and sweden are shaking hands at Nato summit in Madrid

Turkey, Finland and Sweden sign agreement paving the way for more Nato alliances (Picture: Nato)

The declaration from the Nato summit in Madrid has paved the way for more death and destruction in Ukraine—and the threat of wider war. The warmongers’ alliance laid out a “blue print” for a “more competitive world” on Wednesday with the biggest military build-up since the end of the Cold War.

The Nato leaders agreed more arms for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, who spoke to the summit. This means a ramping up of the proxy war that US imperialism and Russian imperialism are waging over Ukraine.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg boasted about “a fundamental shift to our deterrence and defence” in the new Strategic Concept. He promised “more forward deployed combat formations”, “more high-readiness forces” and “more prepositioned equipment”.

President Joe Biden had already pledged the US will pour military equipment into Europe. This will include a permanent headquarters for the 5th Army Corps in Poland, 5,000 more troops in Romania and two F-35 squadrons in Britain.

It will send air defence equipment in Italy and Germany and increase the number of naval destroyers in Spain from four to six.

The new US deployments come on top of the 100,000 troops it has in Europe—which it had already increased by 20,000 since the Russian invasion. And, beyond just the US, its allies will increase the number of troops on high alert from 40,000 to 300,000.

At the summit Nato leaders agreed that they will invite Finland and Sweden—until now officially neutral countries—to join the alliance.

This involved a filthy deal with the Turkish regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday. In return for Turkey dropping its block on the two countries joining, they will clamp down on Kurdish political exiles who’ve faced Turkish repression.

The agreement will see Sweden and Finland “address Turkey’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects”—supporters of the Kurdish nationalist PKK and YPG groups.

Finland and Sweden joining Nato is another sign of how the world is being forced into rival imperialist camps, the US and Russia and China. They are armed with nuclear weapons—and confront one another across eastern Europe and Asia.

Supporters of Nato paint it as a defensive and democratic alliance. The Strategic Concept talks of taking on Russia and China that “undercut the rules-based international order counter to our values and interests”.

In reality, it’s about US imperialism trying to defend its murderous hegemony in the face of competition from Russia and mainly China.

An article on Nato’s website ahead of the summit made clear it was about increasing rivalry between “great powers”. It said that the new Strategic Concept would “prepare the alliance for a world characterised by the return of inter-state threats and great power competition”. It explained this marked a step change from its focus on “non-peer competitors” in the 1990s and 2000s—when the US launched brutal wars against weaker countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

As the US and Nato ramp up imperialist competition, it’s all the more important to build an anti-war movement that rejects all the imperialists. In Britain that means demanding Russian troops withdraw from Ukraine—and opposing the US and Nato escalation and expansion.

Israeli government collapse is rooted in the racist state’s foundations

Posted on: June 29th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Image of Israeli president Bennett at a meeting with US leaders

Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett  (Picture: James K. Lee)

Israel’s government has collapsed. The occupation of Palestine—and the very existence of the Israeli state itself—are at the heart of the crisis.

Right wing prime minister Naftali Bennett was forced to dissolve his government on Wednesday. He failed in his attempt to renew a law that extends Israeli civilian rule to its citizens in West Bank settlements.

The law was a cornerstone of Israel’s apartheid system as it privileges Israeli settlers over West Bank Palestinians, who live under military rule. Every Israeli government—and most Israeli parties—have voted to renew it every five years ever since Israel invaded and occupied the West Bank in 1967.

But Bennett’s government narrowly lost the renewal vote on its first reading in June—and looked set to lose a further vote on Friday. That would have left more than 475,000 Israelis in West Bank settlements living under the same military law as Palestinians. Rather than risk that, Bennett chose instead to dissolve the government. 

For most Israeli politicians, this had nothing to do with principle or opposition to settlements. The bill would have passed if it wasn’t for the viciously right wing opposition led by former prime minister, racist warmonger Binyamin Netanyahu.

As prime minister, Netanyahu championed settlements in the West Bank. He didn’t want to end them—but to prove that Bennett’s government can’t manage the occupation. That’s a fundamental question that strikes at the very existence of the Israeli state—and is at the root of Israel’s political crisis. 

Israel’s settlement-building campaign is designed to claim Palestinian land—with a view to eventually annexing it—and deny Palestinians the hope of any kind of state. But annexing Palestinian land also means more Palestinians living inside Israel’s border. The prospect of this is an existential crisis for a state premised on maintaining a clear ethnic majority over Arabs.

Every Israeli government has had to face up to this contradiction—and none has found an answer.  Bennett’s coalition government replaced Netanyahu a year ago this month. It ended a two-year-long stalemate in which four elections had failed to produce a government.

The one thing that every party in Bennett’s coalition agreed on—“left” and right—is that Netanyahu could no longer manage the occupation. He is bogged down in multiple corruption scandals. But—more importantly—last year’s Palestinian revolt had rocked Israeli society.

Yet those parties were also split on how to manage the occupation and preserve Israel as a “Jewish” state. Some of them are so-called “centrist” or “left” parties who think a commitment to some sort of Palestinian state is the best way to keep Arabs out of Israel.

Others—such as Bennett—want to annexe the whole of the West Bank. They were also divided on what Israel’s “Jewish identity” should mean. Some are secular and want to end privileges enjoyed by Israel’s orthodox minority, while others are deeply religious.

That left Bennett’s coalition fragile and vulnerable to splits—and Israel’s political system mired in repeated elections and stalemates. The only near certainty is that any outcome will likely mean intensified repression of Palestinians. 

Bennett and Netanyahu are committed to never letting go of Palestinian land. Their answer is to do their best—through settlement building and violent repression—to force Palestinians into ever smaller enclaves.

Israeli mainstream politics once denied the crisis had anything to do with the occupation. But now the truth is coming to the fore—it’s about a racist state that can’t exist without oppressing Palestinians.

Keep up solidarity with the GMB Three arrested trade unionists

Posted on: June 29th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Crowd of GMB strikers and other people outside a court house stand there in solidarity with banners, flags and placards

Crowds join the “GMB Three” bin strikers outside Hastings Magistrates Court in solidarity (Picture: Jenny Sutton)

Trade unionists have vowed to keep up solidarity with the “GMB Three” after their first day in court on Friday. The three GMB union officials were arrested on a bin strikers’ picket line at the Amberstone depot in Wealden, East Sussex, in May.

Around 50 people protested outside Hastings magistrates court in solidarity with Gary Palmer, Carl Turner and Declan McIntyre. Their case will go to full trial at Brighton Crown Court on 16 November after all three pleaded not guilty on charges of obstruction of a highway.

Palmer said, “We are pleading not guilty. Why would we do anything else? We’ve not broken any law. And if we have, it’s been unfairly imposed on trade unionists. We will continue to organise, we will push for workers who need a pay rise to mount industrial action. The fight never stops.” 

Simon Hester, chair of Hastings and District trades union council, was at the pickets at the time of the arrests. He told Socialist Worker he thought the police had made a “political” decision to arrest trade union activists. 

“I asked the police why they were making their arrests on the day, and they said because ‘public opinion’ had changed. I then asked how they got to decide where public opinion is—the police officer quickly stopped talking to me after that.

“But what’s clear is this attack on these trade unionists is an attack on pickets and the right to strike.” 

It’s vital everyone defends the right to strike and picket as the cost of living crisis deepens. Justin Bowden, GMB regional secretary, said, “The background to this court case is really simple. It was about ordinary people facing a cost of living crisis unprecedented in my working life. 

“They were standing up against an employer and trying to get better pay to support their families. A lot of these people were being paid under £10 an hour for walking 15 to 20 miles a day. They made a democratic decision and they struck.”

The bin workers have since returned to work after accepting a new pay deal from outsourcer Biffa. 

The GMB Three case is a chilling example of how the Tories have emboldened the police to clamp down on working class people taking a stand. Socialists, trade unionists and campaigners should show their support for the GMB Three.

Sturgeon sets a date—but courts won’t win an independence referendum

Posted on: June 28th, 2022 by Charlie No Comments
Nicola Sturgeon behind a speaker's podium

Nicola Sturgeon says she wants an independence referendum (Picture: Scottish government on Flickr)

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the Scottish parliament on Tuesday to set out the route to a second independence referendum that could break up the British state. She named 19 October next year as the date for a vote—but very serious doubts remain on how this will happen.

Sturgeon said, “Now is the time for independence”, and added that respect for “democracy” but also for “the rule of law” will underpin the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) approach to it. She reasserted her preference would be the Westminster government granting permission for a referendum via a Section 30 order, which Tory governments have refused on two previous occasions.

Sturgeon said, “I will not allow Scottish democracy to be a prisoner of Boris Johnson.” She announced her wish to hold a fresh “consultative” vote—like the Brexit vote in 2016— asking the same question as the 2014 referendum on independence.

Immediately Sturgeon added that the Scottish government’s power to hold such a referendum was contested. If the Scottish parliament tabled the bill, it would almost certainly immediately be obstructed in the courts by the British government and through individual legal challenges.

To overcome this, Sturgeon explained she has asked Scotland’s top judge to refer the bill to the Supreme Court.

Sturgeon conceded the Supreme Court might block the referendum. If that happened, she said the SNP would fight the next general election on the single question of whether Scotland should become an independent country. She said the election would be a “de facto referendum”.

The indyref, if blocked and not held, becomes the reason to vote SNP in 2024. And that still won’t guarantee independence. While the Tories are weak and there is a rise in resistance, a real push for independence could accelerate the crisis of the British state and the unravelling of Johnson’s government. 

The problem is the SNP’s strategy continues to rely solely on the courts and parliament. It rests on the assumption that the British state, the judiciary or international institutions are neutral and will eventually accept the democratic case for independence. 

Independence supporters that have organised on the ground or participated in marches don’t have any role to play. Sturgeon added that if the British government blocked a referendum this would expose any notion of the UK as a voluntary union of nations. The right to a referendum is a basic democratic question. But the question is what is the SNP going to do to make this a reality when the British state deploys every mechanism at its disposal to stop one.

A mass movement, on a bigger scale than what have seen so far and independent from the SNP and its politics, could push back against the Tories and make indyref2 a reality.

This would mean breaking with nationalism and linking independence to the key issues affecting workers now. But the left should not allow Scottish politics for the next year to become dominated by waiting for a referendum while ordinary people are mere spectators. The agitation against climate change, the resistance to racism and deportations and the rail workers’ strikes have shown we can fight now.

Borders kill—dozens of migrants suffocated in San Antonio, Texas

Posted on: June 28th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
A border patrol guard in Texas, in a uniform reading CPB Border Patrol federal agent

Border guards stop safe entry to Texas

There was horror on the US border as at least 46 people were found dead inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas, on Monday. The terrible discovery was made by a worker who heard cries for help coming from inside the trailer and found a pile of bodies inside.

In a desperate attempt to cross the border, migrants got onto a truck with no air conditioning and no water in the sweltering Texas heat. A further 16 people, including four children, were taken to hospital after suffering heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Democratic politician and candidate for governor of Texas Beto O’Rourke called for action to “dismantle human smuggling rings”. But the blood is on the hands of the US state and its border controls.

The number of people attempting to cross the border irregularly has risen to the highest levels in more than a decade this year. Border forces said in March this year they expected 18,000 encounters with migrants a day.

While increasing numbers of migrants are risking their lives to get to the US, the options for safe routes across the border are basically non-existent. Despite the promises president Joe Biden made during his election campaign, immigration policy has changed little since the presidency of Donald Trump.

The public health order known as Title 42, which the Trump administration first used to expel migrants, is still in use. The order sends migrants back with no chance to apply for asylum. Often this leads to migrants repeatedly making attempts to cross the border.

During Biden’s presidency, this policy has turned away at least a million people. The policy director at the American Immigration Council, Aaron Reichlin‑Melnick, said policies like these only result in tragedy.

“With the border shut as tightly as it is today for migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, people have been pushed into more and more dangerous routes,” he posted on Twitter. “Truck smuggling is way up.”

In just one year ending last September, US Customs and Border Protection reported 557 deaths on the southwest border alone, including in Texas. The actual number is likely to be even higher.

US border controls kill hundreds, if not thousands, a year. The same horror that refugees and migrants face in Texas repeats itself worldwide.

There were furious protests after Moroccan security forces, working with the Spanish National Police and the Civil Guard, massacred at least 37 people in Melilla in north Africa. In Britain the Tories are still pushing their deadly scheme to send refugees to Rwanda

On 19 July Care4Calais and the PCS union will be in court, fighting to make the Rwanda deportation plan unlawful. The battle inside the courts must come alongside furious demonstrations outside of it. Border controls kill.

  • Demonstrate, Tue 19 July, 9am onwards, rally 1-2pm, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL. For details go to bit.ly/Rwanda19July

‘I want more strikes now,’ says RMT Network Rail worker

Posted on: June 28th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
Six RMT union members on a picket line with placards reading cut profits not jobs and services

RMT members mounted picket lines across the country last week (Picture: Mike Killian)

Tens of thousands of rail workers that struck last week are looking ahead to what is next in their fight over pay, jobs and safety.

Their RMT union hadn’t announced any more strike dates as Socialist Worker went to press. Delay risks losing momentum in the fight, and allowing the bosses to recover.

Network Rail worker, Dan from Coventry told Socialist Worker, “I’d like to see more strikes announced. RMT senior assistant general secretary Eddie Dempsey talked to rail engineers online and didn’t give a clear answer. A lot of people in the chat were calling for more strikes and action.”

The bosses have shown that they will not roll over after just three days of walkouts. And the strikes shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations for watered down deals that are far short of what’s required.

In media appearances, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch is focussing increasingly on stopping compulsory redundancies, and suggests he may settle for a 7 percent pay increase.

With inflation now near 12 percent, that would mean accepting a real terms pay cut of nearly 5 percent. A deal avoiding compulsory redundancies may also mean accepting thousands of voluntary ones.

The strength of last week’s action by RMT members—and the support it won—showed the rail workers have the power to win much more. They can demand a pay rise of at least 12 percent, and no redundancies at all. But to win that, they need to demand more, sustained action.

Dan said, “When we have the movement supporting us, we want to keep momentum going. We have our RMT annual general meeting next week—we could call for more strikes there.”

He added that the solidarity for RMT members from other workers and trade unions was also important—even as the Labour Party turned its back on strikers. “Keep coming to solidarity rallies and the picket lines,” he said. “People from the public, not in a trade union, donated £60,000 to the strike fund last week.”

A win for the rail workers would be a blow not just to rail bosses, but every boss that wants to drive down wages, and the Tories who back them. Tory transport secretary Grant Shapps has tried desperately to undermine the strike.

He accused workers of trying to “defend indefensible working practices,” then suggested the strike had no impact. In reality, the Tories are rattled. Victory for the rail strikers would show every other worker that striking can win.

Kremenchuk—the West’s pro-war hypocrites

Posted on: June 28th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
Johnson at G7 war Ukraine Russia

Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and other warmongers at the G7 summit this week, after missile hits Kremenchuk, Ukraine

The Russian missile that slammed into a crowded shopping centre in the city of Kremenchuk on Monday adds to a long list of appalling murders in the Ukraine war. At least 16 people died and scores more were injured. Ukrainian government officials described the attack as an “act of terrorism” against civilians.

The attack underlines the reactionary nature of Vladimir Putin’s invasion. But it should not be used to escalate the war further. No doubt it will be seized on by Boris Johnson and other warmongers at this week’s Nato summit.  They will likely demand more weapons and a further acceleration of the supply of death-dealing technology to Ukraine.

All the Western denunciations are based on hypocrisy. In decades of forever wars the US and its allies, with Britain on the frontline, have committed countless atrocities.  

They have mown down civilians, massacred wedding parties, fired on hospitals from helicopters and obliterated entire towns.  At the end of last year, the New York Times detailed how in Iraq and Afghanistan the US military had embraced the deliberate killing of children.  They were expendable when a supposed military target was deemed more important than their lives.

The blood-soaked supporters of  Western imperialism will use Putin’s assaults to worsen the killing. Instead there needs to be a stronger movement to say no to the invasion but also no to Nato escalation.

After 50 years of Pride—fly red flag with a rainbow one

Posted on: June 28th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
a crowd shot of people at reclaim pride

Protesters at Reclaim Pride in London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

It’s 50 years since the first London Pride march, the first of its kind in Britain. Some 2,000 people attended in 1972, organised by the Gay Liberation Front. It was not supported by the state, much less by brands and companies.

Pride was a defiant stand against rampant oppression and a deliberate effort to continue the Stonewall riots’ radical legacy of fighting for LGBT+ rights. In 2019, over 1.5 million people celebrated London Pride, and it’s still a day of rejecting oppression and claiming LGBT+ existence.

Not only has attendance skyrocketed, but there are now Prides in cities and small towns across Britain. Defiant campaigns and broader struggle has shifted attitudes towards LGBT+ people. In 1972 the age of consent for gay men was 21. It became 16 in 2000.

Civil partnerships were legalised in 2004, followed by same sex marriage in 2014. Transgender people were given some rights under the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA). But alongside this, the last 50 years have produced state pushbacks that hit LGBT+ people. Section 28 in 1988 banned discussion of homosexuality or gender fluidity in schools.

The AIDS crisis led to the victimisation of gay men while thousands died. Today more than 25 percent of homeless people are LGBT+. And a huge clampdown from the Tories on trans people has stifled liberation. Positive reforms to the GRA have been scrapped, and the Tories’ ban on conversion therapy excluded transgender people.

Pride season has the ability to mobilise huge masses, giving LGBT+ people a space to gain a sense of liberation. It’s important that New York City’s pride last weekend was led by Planned Parenthood in the wake of attacks on abortion in the US. But with growing commercialisation has come a watering down of the radicalism that can hit back at the attacks.

The homophobic Met police take part, as does the Home Office which deports LGBT+ refugees.True liberation can only be achieved through taking protest to pride. Some 40,000 people took to the streets for London Pride in 1988 supported by the TUC union federation. We need more of this today.

The newer, more radical London Trans+ Pride creates an open space while demanding change. Reclaim Pride events have become popular as they see through the hypocrisy of multinational corporations. The rights won in the last 50 years are only because of mobilisations from LGBT+ people from below.

To push forward and win liberation fightback means placards as well as flags. It means celebrating how far LGBT+ rights have come but being clear that the fight isn’t over. We need a liberation movement that is part of the broader struggle against the capitalist system that exploits and oppresses us all.